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Gym Transforms Into Community Hub
The recently expanded UA Rec Center is now home to a computer lab, tutoring site, retail space and a cafe.
The newly revamped Student Recreation Center this fall is introducing a new retail space, a Think Tank site, two massage rooms, a computer lab, a cafe and a bistro.
The additions are part of a new philosophy that emphasizes broad-based use of the facilities to encourage more students and faculty and staff members to use the space.
"What we intend to do here is really critical in terms of the increased collaboration and access to the community, both at the UA and in the Tucson community," said Frank Farias, the assistant vice president of student affairs and UA BookStores executive director.
"We want to influence their lifestyles and help with their confidence," Farias said. "And we want Campus Rec to be redefined as something more than a place just for physical activity."
For instance, the Think Tank, the University of Arizona's academic support service center for students, will hold regular hours in a space shared with an Apple computer lab run by the Office of Student Computing Resources.
Farias and Cody Nicholls, Campus Recreation's assistant director for business and student development, said the center wants to reorient perceptions that it is meant for a specific type of student or athlete.
"We are, right now, looking at redefining our efforts with an education component," Nicholls said. "We want to make the center more friendly and more inclusive to the campus community."
The center, which employs about 200 students, also will staff a site informing visitors of non-credit fitness classes and other offerings and also incorporate faculty members in specific outdoor programs.
In the future, Campus Recreation and UA BookStores will collaborate on remodeling the locker rooms to add more features for privacy. Additionally, Bear Down Gym is being retrofitted.
But the Student Recreation Center has more in store.
The cafe and bistro, which will be run by the Arizona Student Unions, is adjoined to the retail space, which will carry T-shirts, shorts, tote bags, shoes, iPod accessories, water bottles, flip flops, toiletries and a range of other items.
The UA BookStores collaborated with Retro Brand to introduce a UA-specific casual and athletics wear clothing line called Arizona Green. The company is donating 30 percent of the proceeds from sales to a scholarship program for UA students.
The idea behind the new additions is that the center should serve as a central hub, providing students, faculty and staff members, alumni and other affiliates with a site where they can study, lounge, snack and socialize.
The center also will allow users the choice to either continue swiping their CatCard for Rec Center entrance or they may sign up to use a biometrics system enabling them to enter with fingerprint verification.
The staff will head up an enrollment drive, visiting student living spaces and the UA Mall to educate the campus community about the service, which records personal information numerically. Visitors will be able to sign up on site.
"That will help a lot of people who forgot their CatCard and help prevent tailgating, where students pass their cards back for others to use," said Mary O'Mahoney, the department's assistant director for sports clubs, family programs and aquatics.
O'Mahoney said that with funds generated by the student-approved fee, the center will be able to expand its hours. It now will be open 6 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday.
Additionally, the center is adding specialized staff.
Timothy Kidd, who has published about climbing and outdoor fitness, is the new assistant director for outdoor and experiential education. Olympic medalist and UA alumna Lacey John, formerly Lacey Nymeyer, is coordinating the aquatic program.
Another area of emphasis is tying the center's offerings in with academics, O'Mahoney said, noting that Kidd's responsibility also will be involving UA faculty and staff members at the Biosphere 2 and Flandrau: The University of Arizona Science Center in outdoor adventure trips.
"We sometimes feel Campus Recreation, with the physical boundaries, may be viewed by others as an island," O'Mahoney said.
"But as far as recreation goes, there are more opportunities for experiential education. It's an easy tie with academics," she added. "A student doesn't need only to be sitting in a class for learning to take place."