Yes, the SERF is coming down. Scheduled to begin in July 2017, the Southeast recreational facility is going to be decommissioned. That means that the deconstruction and demolition process will begin. Once complete, the site will be readied for new construction and the new facility will be built on the same site with an anticipated opening of Spring 2020. We estimate that campus will be without the Southeast Recreational facility for nearly two full years while the new facility is built. The lack of facilities will be a minor inconvenience for some and a major shift in daily routine for others. It is well worth the wait. Here’s why:
1) Students voted. 87% of students want new facilities. In March 2014, the student government body of UW-Madison, ASM, voted to pass the referendum that would provide part of the funding for the Rec Sports Master Plan, a $236M plan to improve all of the major facilities that serve the University. The referendum passed with an incredible 87% of students voting in favor of increased segregated fees for students to help fund the new facilities. The 2014 referendum vote also had a huge turnout, 14,000 students- compare that to the 4,500 students who voted in Spring 2016.
If you need a reminder why students showed up en masse or why we need new facilities you may want to take a look at this video from the 2014 referendum campaign. Although the video contains a bit of drama and humor, the point it makes is true: The SERF is [still] overcrowded and in disrepair. The new SERF is being engineered to be welcoming, inclusive, efficient, functional, and an effective use of students’ money.
2) Effective use of students’ money. We did our homework before we decided to build a brand new facility. Renovating the existing facility would cost more with less of an impact. Renovating the SERF would mean taking the existing facility and modernizing it within the confines of its outdated, aging infrastructure. It would mean attempting to improve its mechanical components, use of space, and structure. In its current state, the SERF suffers from gym closures due to humidity, equipment & structural deficiencies, overcrowding, and a losing battle for maintenance. It is very difficult and expensive to maintain and operate the SERF efficiently. During the planning process, it was decided that doubling down on facility problems of that caliber would be a mistake. The new SERF is utilizing high quality, cost-saving engineering to maximize the impact of every dollar spent, while maintaining the highest level of operation.
3) The Union South Effect. Union South is a central hub for the UW campus. That wasn’t always the case, but now that we have a beautiful, state-of-the-art, engaging, and functional Union South- it is nearly impossible to imagine campus without it. Prospective students and parents are awed and excited by it- not by the building- by its energy and the feel of its environment. Union South is a source of pride, showcasing the art, culture, and climate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The new SERF will shape our campus in ways that we cannot yet imagine. Its wonderfully open spaces will entice new users, the massive additions to fitness and training equipment will nearly eliminate waiting, the accessibility of all of the spaces and programs will increase recreational participation, leading to a healthier, happier, more balanced campus. The building of a larger facility with more space, programs, and equipment isn’t superfluous- it is an absolute necessity. Badgers need spaces and programs to help them de-stress, stay healthy, and remain active members of the academic community.
4) The original SERF was designed for a different era; the new SERF is being designed to serve Future Badgers for decades. The SERF was built in 1982-83 at the very end of Brutalist architecture’s popularity. Brutalist architecture was used on college campuses across the United States throughout the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s. The designs use sharp edges, reinforced concrete, and a pronounced ‘fortress’ feel. The buildings were popular because they were considered en vogue at the time (not because brutalist structures on college campuses were built to dissuade student riots). Although the motivation behind the original SERF’s design is not particularly dubious, the design remains inaccessible, unwelcoming, and an incredibly inefficient use of space due to its complex, corridor-ridden layout.
By building a new facility we are able to consider every detail: programming, events, open-concepts, and the needs of the students. The new SERF will have accommodations which reflect precisely what the students and members asked for. Here are just five of the many things to look forward to in the new facility:
- More fitness space: Five-times more. This is our members’ number one request by far. No more 30-minute waits for treadmills.
- Five multi-purpose studios: Currently, there is only one studio serving the users of the SERF. We recognized the need for more studios to allow our incredible Fitness programs to shine and to provide space for clubs and student organizations.
- Natural lighting: No more ‘dungeon’ feel. Lots of windows and both natural light and beautiful campus views from the interior.
- Competition pool with diving tower: Intercollegiate Athletics, community swim groups, instructional classes, and recreational swimmers will benefit from our newly designed pool facility.
- Inspiration: The new SERF is being designed with community wellness as the cornerstone. We are creating a facility that is not only beautiful, welcoming, and accessible- it is inspiring.
5) The Golden age of UW-Madison. UW Madison is a world class university. World Class. It is important that our recreational facilities are, themselves, world-class. Union South, Grainger Hall, the Kohl Center, the Law Building, the Discovery Building, Microbial Sciences Building, the Wisconsin Energy Institute, Nancy Nicholas Hall, and many incredible residence halls all contribute to the campus experience both functionally and aesthetically. These buildings and facilities attract better students, better staff, facilitate better research, and create a more complete academic community.
The high caliber recreational facilities of the Master Plan will reflect more than our commitment to wellness, community, and academic success. It will reflect Wisconsin’s forward progress. We, as Badgers, don’t settle for good enough- we strive, struggle, and press forward to improve ourselves so that we may improve our world. The Golden Age of UW-Madison is here because we are building it. Always Forward.
-University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Recreational Sports