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Saturday, October 16, 2021
Chancellor Rebecca Blank unveils new plans for recreation center

University breaks ground on new recreation and wellbeing center

A new recreation center is set to be built in place of the former Natatorium outside Dejope Residence Hall, and overlooking Lake Mendota. The $113.2 million establishment will be named the Bakke Recreation and Wellbeing Center.

A $20 million lead donation from UW-Madison alumnus Jim Bakke, class of 1977, and his wife Sue, will contribute to the construction of the new facility, set to finish by 2023. The donation was announced on Sept. 30 during a ground-breaking event on the site

The center will be a standout facility with 3,000 square feet of fitness space, eight basketball courts, five multipurpose studios, the Sub-Zero Ice Area, Wolf Teaching Kitchen, recreational pool, indoor climbing wall, space for wellbeing services, sports simulators and an outdoor fitness terrace.

Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle was the first speaker at the announcement event. He gave a recount on the history of the Ho-Chunk in the area and explained how the values of physical, spiritual and emotional wellness are shared and expressed with the new center. 

“In every way we want wellness and students to exercise their body and mind,” he said. 

A sculpture is being constructed with Ho-Chunk artist Ken Lewis to honor the tradition of health and recreation shared with the Ho-Chunk people, and will be featured near the building. 

Chancellor Rebecca Blank followed and explained that the building will provide “state of the art facilities for students, faculty, staff and members of the public to take care of their health, learn new skills and develop lifelong habits that support physical and mental well-being — not to mention have a lot of fun while in the building.”

The Bakke family was present and Jim Bakke shared remarks on how, as an alumnus, the donation was something special to his family.

“Wherever we did make a donation, we wanted to include the community, not just the students and faculty on campus,” he said. “It really brings a lot of pride to our family.” 

The Bakke Recreation and Wellbeing Center is meant to complement the Nicolaus Recreation Center and enable the university to give space and access for all its students to two world class facilities.  

Jackie Elliot, a recent graduate who served on the project’s design team, explained further how the new facility will benefit students.

“Looking into the future, the Bakke Center will be a destination on campus for students to learn and grow along their wellbeing journey,” Elliot said. “Its inclusive design and welcoming atmosphere will inspire generations of Badgers to establish healthy lifestyles and build community. The Bakke Center is more than a building, we’re building a movement.” 

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