The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced the newly constructed Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center will open on April 24 on the site of the old Natatorium.
The new center will include features such as dedicated space for wellbeing services, like a teaching kitchen and spaces dedicated to supporting mental health, a 25-yard recreational pool, eight basketball courts, an ice rink, a climbing and bouldering wall, sports stimulators, multipurpose studios, an indoor jogging track and a rooftop fitness area, according to Sarah Barnes, associate director of marketing and communications at University Recreation & Wellbeing.
While many of these features are similar to those of the Nicholas Recreation Center, the climbing and bouldering wall, 4,300 square feet dedicated to wellbeing services and rooftop fitness area, will be unique to the Bakke.
“I’m excited for the open area on the roof. None of the other rec centers have that option,” UW-Madison freshman Laura Bush said.
Like the Nicholas Recreation Center, the Bakke will contain sports courts, group fitness classes and cardio and strength equipment. The biggest difference between the two fitness centers is location, as the Bakke is in the Lakeshore neighborhood of campus next to the Lakeshore Path and Lake Mendota.
Students who live in Lakeshore expressed excitement for the Bakke to open because of the close proximity to where they live.
“It will be nice for those living in Lakeshore to have a gym close to us that has the variety of workout options the Nick does,” UW-Madison freshman Jordan Gross said.
Bush echoed this sentiment, explaining, “I am excited for it to open; it is going to be very nice to have a quality gym in Lakeshore. However, I would have liked if we could have had it open [earlier].”
On the other hand, sophomore Aaron Lebakken is most excited for there to be “less people at the Nick."
With the opening of the Bakke, two other RecWell facilities will close: the Shell on April 19 and the Holt Fitness Center on April 2, according to Rec Well’s latest update. Though the buildings will stay, the Shell will return to UW Athletics’ domain and the upper floor of the Frank Holt Center will return to University Housing.
While many students are excited for the Bakke, some students shared they are upset about losing the Shell as a RecWell Facility.
“I am going to miss the Shell because the Shell is grunge,” UW-Madison freshman Erik Peterson said. “I love it.”
Bush said she will also miss the Shell and Holt Fitness Center, noting they are great facilities for beginners in working out.
“Those spaces are both typically not too busy and a nice place for beginners,” Bush said. “Without these, it might be scarier for newer students to feel comfortable.”
The biggest concern expressed by some students is a loss of access to the Shell’s indoor track. Though the Bakke will have a three-lane indoor track, it will not be a full-size 200-meter track like the one at the Shell.
“I loved running on the indoor track,” freshman Caleb Ekezie said.
Lebakken echoed this sentiment — “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that a university like us will not have a full-size indoor track. How does that make sense?”
While the Shell was designed for athletic competitions and is home to men and women’s track and field, the new facility is designed for recreational use, according to Barnes.
“The track located at Bakke is an indoor running/jogging track for recreational use only, similar to the on the fourth floor at the Nick,” Barnes explained. “The one at the Shell is a 200-meter track for athletic competition.”
Though some students expressed they will miss the Shell, they remain excited about the Bakke’s new features and proximity to the Lakeshore neighborhood.
“I’m just looking forward to having a good quality gym in Lakeshore,” Gross said.