The Master Plan

The Rec Sports Master Plan includes designs for the renovation and expansion of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities at UW-Madison in order to better meet the space demands and programming interests of UW-Madison students. Total cost of the project is estimated at $223 million (more financial information available below). Please note that the images presented here are conceptual, not finalized, designs. 


  • 9 regulation-size courts for Basketball, Volleyball, Badminton, Futsal, etc.
  • 9 multipurpose rooms
  • 7 laps/mile on a new indoor track
  • 6 racquetball/squash courts
  • 3 times the current amount of cardio + strength fitness space
  • PLUS renovations to existing 50-meter pool and a wellness suite


  • 12 regulation-size courts for Basketball, Volleyball, Badminton, Futsal, etc.
  • 7 times the current amount of cardio + strength fitness space
  • 6 multipurpose rooms
  • 6 racquetball/squash courts
  • 4.5 laps/mile on a new indoor track
  • PLUS an 8-lane recreation & instruction pool, indoor turf field, ice rink, and wellness suite


  • 5 Flag Football fields at Near West
  • 5 Soccer fields at Near East (including one championship field)
  • Lighted fields
  • Ecofill turf (made from recycled materials)

January 2014 Public Meeting Presentation


  • Total project cost is estimated at $223 million (SERF, Natatorium, and Near East & Near West Fields)
  • Students’ segregated fees will increase by no more than $108 per semester, keeping segregated fees dedicated to campus recreation less than the equivalent Big Ten average of $145.06
  • Alternative funding sources will account for a minimum of 43% of the project (these sources include gifts, the State, UW Athletics, and Rec Sports program revenue)
  • At the request of students, Rec Sports has successfully kept students’ funding proportion to less than 60% of the total project amount (segregated fees will account for 57% of the total cost). This amount is consistent with student fee support in the overall Rec Sports budget.
  • Should additional funding from alternative sources become available, these funds will also offset the increase in students’ segregated fees
  • Due to the amount of alternative funding already committed to the Master Plan (pending students’ support in March), Rec Sports is in a position to minimize increases in segregated fees until a new facility opens

113 thoughts on “The Master Plan

    1. The softball fields will not be affected by this work other than intermittent traffic congestion from the construction. The Near West field construction is scheduled to complete in November- we are working with our campus community so that the impact of the construction is managed in the best way possible!

  1. Many people are concerned about the toxicity of artificial turf fields, which are typically constructed from shredded tires and other recycled hydrocarbon-based materials. This is of particular concern for outdoor fields, whose surfaces are exposed to increased sunlight and heat, and which can often be 20 or more degrees hotter than grass surfaces (see this Washington Post article from last year, for example:

    Is the UW aware of these potential health risks, and if so, how were they assessed in the decision-making process for the project, and if not, why not, and is the UW open to reconsidering the decision to use artificial turf in the future should more information about their risks become available?

  2. Will prices be increased for those graduating before the facilities are finished and will not be using them? Also, I find it unfair that students should be paying for gym memberships within their tuition when they don’t even have access to the facility.

    1. Jason,

      Thanks for your feedback. While the SERF will be offline during construction, many of our programs and services will still be available to students. Our other three facilities will remain open, as well, so that students have access to continue working out during that time. Changes in segregated fees will impact all students on campus, but these are scheduled to occur gradually throughout the process. Please let us know if you have other questions!

  3. Will both the Natatorium and the SERF be closed at the same time? Will everything be completely shut down or will it be constructed in stages, allowing students to still use the facilities?

    1. Hi Hannah, great questions! The SERF will be rebuilt first, followed by the Natatorium. We have staggered the construction timelines so that one of the facilities will always be open. We will have alternate fitness space available throughout campus during the SERF construction. To answer your question, the entire facility will be offline during construction. Hope that helps!

  4. Hi, I’d like to know where I can get some of the specifics on the design of the new Natatorium? What is the estimated square footage? What is the current energy consumption of the Natatorium and what will the new building energy consumption be? Are you planning to use renewable sources of energy like the solar panels in the rendering, and if so, what percentage of the total energy needs will be supplied through these renewable sources? Thank you for your time and help.

    1. Hi, Josh. Thank you for your patience as we’ve looked into some answers for your questions. We have yet to begin designs for the new facility; however, sustainable features and design are among our priorities for the entire Master Plan project. We are striving for a minimum LEED Silver certification at each building (with hopes of doing even better). We will be sharing all designs on the blog as we progress throughout the process, and I encourage you to continue checking back for updates. Thanks again for your concerns!

    1. At this point, we do not have funding for renovation/improvements at Nielsen Tennis Stadium. The facilities included in the referendum were the SERF, Natatorium, Near West fields, and Near East fields. Should funding designated for the Nielsen become available, we would certainly consider options at that site.

    1. We are currently on schedule for a a Summer 2017 construction start date for the SERF. (The building would go offline then with plans to reopen in 2019.)

  5. Greetings, I’d like to suggest a dedicated stretching / other exercise area if not already in the plans. Currently at the Nat people have to try to squeeze in next to weight lifting machines or in the aisles – a bit of a hazard.

    1. Christy,

      We could not agree more with this suggestion. We are hoping to create facilities with much for space for stretching/core/alternative exercises. Space is a huge issue in our current buildings, and we are excited to give our members and participants a better place to get the workout THEY want!

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. 1) While the NAT & SERF are being updated/demolished, will there be an alternative place to exercise on campus for students?

    2) Have there been any suggestions to add a suana or steam room to either facilities? Although they seem unnecessary, many B1G colleges have them accessible to students.

    1. Hi Jon!

      Apologies for the delayed response… we are busy with getting things ready for school to start! 🙂

      We are only working on one facility at a time, so our students and members will have access to the other facility on campus during construction. We are also working with other campus partners (Housing, Unions, etc.) to identify other locations for strength, cardio, fitness classes, and other activities. We will be making announcements about those locations as plans are finalized and as construction draws nearer.

      We have heard some suggestions about adding a sauna/steam room to our facilities. Our design process has not yet begun for either facility (we are still in the process of choosing an architect), but I will pass your suggestion along.

      Thanks for your comments — please feel free to let us know if you have other questions or ideas!


      1. I wouldn’t say that a sauna is any more or less unnecessary than other fitness-related amenities, and would be quite reasonable to include. I was previously a student a University of Minnesota, and all the (men’s, but I assume also women’s) locker rooms that served the pools (at least on the Minneapolis campus, not sure about what the St.Paul campus pool had), older buildings (such as Cooke Hall, which had gyms in addition to the two pools) and the newer natatorium had a sauna/steam room. If I recall correctly, the locker room in the aquatic centre had both a steamroom and a dry sauna.

      2. My alma mater (another Big Ten school) also had these amenities. They certainly seem to be common in other facilities. I have passed your suggestions on! Thanks for sharing!

  7. $223 million dollars?! This is a joke.. !. The buildings are not even LEED accredited and obviously WASTE massive amounts of building materials, I get that just by looking at the renderings. It seems you folks only care about the aesthetics vs the functionality of the building. Form Follows Function! 1) Gymnasium, seriously does not need that much space. Will this space be used for other events besides sporting events?! 2) The running tracks where a runner could easily obtain a gold medal for swan diving 2-3 stories if they tripped over the railings. 3) If you’re concerned about current space, then its best to actually complete a survey if a 24 HOUR facility access is necessary vs wasting student dollars and tax dollars. 4) RENOVATION of current buildings, not that difficult!

    1. Thank you for sharing your opinions. We’re happy to clarify some of the misgivings you’ve expressed in your comments. In response to your points:

      The buildings WILL be LEED certified at a minimum level of Silver accreditation. This is an important initiative on our campus, and we certainly value sustainability within our division as well. You can read more about these initiatives here:

      1) We have planned our gym space to accommodate multiple sports as well as special events. We currently only have four regulation-size gyms at the SERF and three non-regulation size gyms that are smaller than high school courts. This lack of space creates huge waits for our students during peak hours of activity and is not conducive to the many sports students enjoy playing here at UW-Madison. We actually reduced the size of the gyms at the Natatorium after meeting with students and scaled back the entire project in the beginning phases of our planning. Our gyms are currently used to host several events outside of our sports activities, and we hope to even grow these capabilities with the new spaces.

      2) We can assure you that our facilities will be safe for our members. Students voted to support the plan and the increase in segregated fees. You can read more about our funding models (which only include state funding at the Natatorium site, where academic units are also housed) here:

      3) We are looking at possibilities of offering a 24-hour facility on campus at some point in the future. However, we also value students’ overall wellness and understand the impact that a good night’s sleep can have on their academic performance, emotional and mental health, and general sense of wellbeing.

      4) You will notice that the plan passed in the referendum by students actually WAS a renovation of the current SERF. The contingency for a new facility was based on funding for a new 50-meter competition pool.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Would it be possible to have bike trainers in one of the academic facilities? I know the triathlon team and cycling team would make use, and I don’t know if there are others who would too. Trainers are much less expensive than stationary bikes and easier to store too.

    1. Peter, this is a great suggestion. We will pass it along to our design team and programs staff so that they can keep this in mind when they’re ordering equipment for the new facilities. Thanks for the idea! Keep them coming!

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