Top Ten Things You Should Know about the Rec Sports Master Plan.

photo of players waiting in line to play basketball at the SERF
During peak hours, players wait in line to play basketball, use workout equipment, and even get into the facility.


Rec Sports facilities are overcrowded, outdated, and far behind the national standards for fitness space per person on a college campus.


In 2012, students approached Rec Sports Director John Horn about reopening a Master Plan for new recreational facilities at UW-Madison. Students specifically requested we consider improvements at the SERF, Natatorium, and Near West and Near East fields.

vote logo used during referendum
Over 34% of UW-Madison students participated in the March 2014 voting process.


In March 2014, UW-Madison students voted in a campus-wide referendum to the student government election ballot. 87% of those who voted favored an increase in segregated fees to support new construction at the SERF, Natatorium, and Near West and Near East fields.


An Olympic-sized competition pool at the SERF was added to the project after the referendum passed. Language in the referendum allowed for this amenity to be included in the design without further increases in student fees, providing $13 million of funding became available from additional sources. UW Athletics committed to helping raise the gift money needed for the new pool.

photo of olympic-size pool at the ohio state university
An Olympic-size competition pool, such as this one at The Ohio State University, not only permits larger aquatics events, but also creates more lap swimming space for recreational participants.


Rec Sports is making every effort to withhold the segregated fee increases until the year the facilities become available and student funding is estimated to support 57% of the total project. Rec Sports program revenue and gift funding will account for the remaining project costs.


Had students not voted to support new facilities, the alternative outcome would have been to maintain the current spaces. Our current facilities require extensive repair and upgrades which also would have required an immediate increase in students’ segregated fees to help cover costs, with no added value to the recreational experience.

photo of buckets on the SERF track to catch water leaking through the roof
Buckets placed on the track indicate repairs needed to the SERF roof. More details about alternative projects to new construction can be found here.


Rec Sports participants, student organizations, UW Housing residents, student athletes, and Madison community members were invited to attend open forum events to learn more about the Master Plan projects throughout the campaign. Campus and community feedback was (and still is) encouraged throughout the process.


Students indicated via surveys and other methods that their primary concern for new facilities is additional fitness space (for strength, cardio, stretching, and functional training).


The estimated timeline* for design and construction of the new facilities is as follows:

  • Near West
    • Design begins Fall 2015
    • Construction begins Summer 2016
    • Facility opens Fall 2016
  •  SERF
    • Design begins Spring 2016
    • Construction begins Summer 2017
    • Facility opens Fall 2019
  •  Natatorium
    • Design begins Fall 2017
    • Construction begins Fall 2019
    • Facility opens Fall 2021
  • Near East
    • Design begins Fall 2021
    • Construction begins Summer 2022
    • Facility opens Fall 2022

*All dates are estimates. Many factors contribute to the projects being completed on time, and Rec Sports will continue to communicate changes in the project timeline as necessary.

photo of crowded cardio room at the SERF
A crowded fitness cardio room demonstrates the need for additional fitness space on campus. New facilities will offer more square footage and more flexibility for workouts.


Alternative sites for workout spaces during SERF construction have been identified. We are partnering with Housing (Ogg Hall will host a temporary fitness center) and other units on campus to continue providing as many programs and services as possible.


Rec Sports will be distributing a campus survey to hear YOUR input on design plans for the SERF. If you are interested in playing a larger role in the Master Plan process, please email Sadat Khan, Associate Director of Member Services and Operations, at, or Alex Peirce, Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications, at


2 thoughts on “Top Ten Things You Should Know about the Rec Sports Master Plan.

  1. You need to define “near east” and “near west”. Also oldest facility should be first for replacement.
    Is complete replacement of SERF really necessary ?

    1. David, I apologize for not responding to your questions until now. The Near East fields are the fields immediately east of the Natatorium (in front of Dejope). The Near West fields are the fields immediately to the west of the Natatorium (near the marching band practice field). There are a number of factors that led to the SERF being first on the list for construction (technically second, after Near West fields). The complete replacement of the SERF permits a new aquatic facility to be built, complete with a competition pool and diving well. The pool is funded partially by students’ segregated fees and partially by gift funding from UW Athletics.

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