Campus News

State of the art recreational center ‘the Nick’ opens on campus

Image By: Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison

On Monday morning, UW-Madison opened its newest on-campus gym after nearly three years of construction.

The Nicholas Recreational Center — named after the late Albert “Ab” Nicholas who made a large donation to its construction — is a $96.5 million upgrade from the previous Southeast Recreational Facility (SERF) that was torn down in late 2017.

The ‘Nick’ got its start after 87 percent of UW-Madison students voted to approve recreational sports facility upgrades, although only 35 percent of students voted in that 2014 referendum.

Sustainability was at the forefront of the design process for the Nick, as the facility intends to stand for “generations to come.” Over 41,000 tons of material — including asphalt, cardboard and concrete — were diverted from Wisconsin landfills for the building, making up 99 percent of the overall construction materials.

In addition to the recycled materials used in construction, only high-efficiency utilities were installed. A few examples include toilets and showers, water bottle filling stations, laundry facilities and motion light sensors.

The facility boasts five levels, over 30,000 square feet of “fitness space,” eight basketball courts and a three-lane track among other features — including “active” glass on the building's exterior that shades fitness areas from sunlight glare.

“[The Nick] is pretty incredible,” said junior Wyatt Schoep, who was the fourth person into the building after it opened. “There is a ton of workout equipment and activities, everything a college kid could dream of.”

Compared to the SERF, the Nick offers nearly 50,000 more square feet of usable space and four additional “fitness studios” that can be used for club sport practices or cycling classes.

“This facility was desperately needed, it’s going to be a draw for prospective students,” Schoep said. “It’s great to have a place where friends can congregate and work out or play sports together.”

The Nick will also become home to the UW’s swim and dive teams once the Soderholm Family Aquatic Center, located inside the Nick, is finished in mid-October. The facility will contain 27 separate swim lanes and seating for 1,000 spectators — an upgrade from the eight lane pool in the Natatorium, which the teams currently compete in.

However, because of the spike in COVID-19 cases on campus, the Nick is currently only open at 25 percent capacity, allowing a maximum of 170 people through the doors at a time on a first-come, first-served basis. When the building is at capacity, a socially-distanced line is formed at the front entrance.

“The COVID precautions were great,” Schoep said. “Everyone got their own sanitizing bottle and a towel so we could wipe down equipment before and after using it. I also didn’t see a single person without a mask on.”

The university announced a number of other safety precautions in place, which include:

  • Mandatory masks for anyone inside the building, regardless of the activity
  • Regular cleaning of all “high-touch” surfaces
  • Added floor markings for weight lifting areas
  • Locker rooms and showers are temporarily closed
  • Basketball/volleyball courts are temporarily closed

A live count of building use in the Nick is available through the RecWell site here.

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