It’s official: the Southeast Recreational Facility, better known to students as the SERF, will be torn down and replaced.
The State of Wisconsin Building Commission approved the project Wednesday, according to a governor’s office release. The plan calls for the gymnasium to close permanently late this summer and be demolished in the fall.
The project, led by the UW-Madison Division of Recreational Sports, will create a gym with four times the fitness space of the SERF. Rec Sports hopes to have the new gym open in two years.
The proposal has been somewhat controversial because of the source of its funding. The project is expected to cost approximately $93 million, but none of that money will come from the state government. UW-Madison students will contribute $50 million through fee increases and the remainder of the cost will be shouldered by the school’s athletic department and private donors.
Students agreed to the fee increases in a campus-wide referendum in 2014. Many students deemed it necessary to tear down the SERF because of its host of problems, including a leaky roof, limited studio space and lack of a regulation-size pool.
Rec Sports officials say they considered renovating the SERF, which opened in 1983, but realized the building was so small and inefficiently designed that a total demolition was necessary.
Not having the SERF for two years will undoubtedly cause disruption on campus. The university’s two other gyms, the UW Natatorium and Camp Randall Sports Center, are less conveniently located for many students and will likely be overrun in the absence of the SERF.
Rec Sports officials said they would move some of the SERF’s fitness equipment to Ogg Residence Hall so that students can exercise nearby.
Rec Sports Director John Horn said "the excitement is certainly starting to build" about the new gym.
“I feel very good about this project based on the student engagement ... [students] have given us feedback every step of the way,” Horn said.
UPDATE April 26, 7:35 p.m.: This article was updated to include an additional statement.