After months of work, the southwest addition of the University of Colorado Recreation Center, where the majority of changes during the renovation process occurred, will open Friday as students make their way back from winter break for classes on Monday.
The 83,000-square-foot addition includes a new entrance and lobby on the building's south side, a three-story climbing wall, a bouldering wall, three new courts for basketball and volleyball, wellness suites, three floors of weights and cardiovascular equipment, fitness studios and a mind and body studio for yoga and other classes.
Construction for the $63 million renovation and expansion project, which is being paid for by student fees, has been underway since October 2012.
But to CU Student Government leader Chris Schaefbauer, who got a sneak peek at the new southwest addition earlier this week, it is money well spent.
"When you see it, it feels all worth it," he said. "A lot of work has gone into this and it's great to see an amazing final product. When students see it, they'll understand why dealing with all the construction and loud noises and all of that is going to end up being worth it. Once you see it, I think you get it."
The renovations and upgrades increased the size of the center by nearly 30 percent and addressed nearly $25 million in deferred maintenance at the center.
To celebrate, CU is hosting Reconnect with the Rec, an event designed to welcome students and other users to the new center Jan. 21-24. During that week, the rec center and all fitness classes will be free to all faculty and staff.
The center is also hosting free fitness classes for students and members Monday through Jan. 17.
Schaefbauer said the "new" rec center feels open, spacious and airy, and includes great views of the Flatirons.
"The old rec center had really tight corridors and was really dark and kind of depressing, to be honest," he said. "So opening that up and bringing in tons of light and getting great views, it really makes the space feel like Colorado."
Construction will officially finish in April, when rec center staff plan to host a grand opening. During the last phase of construction this spring, crews will finish work on the outdoor pool, indoor turf field and tennis courts.
Schaefbauer said he's heard quite a few negative comments about the outdoor pool, which is shaped like CU's mascot, a charging buffalo.
But after talking to the naysayers about the purpose of the buffalo shape, Schaefbauer said most students were excited for the pool to open.
The two legs of the buffalo are for sending and receiving heat between the pool and the indoor ice rink, CU rec center officials said. The pool will be heated by excess warmth taken from the ice rink, and any heat left over from the swimming pool will be used in showers, faucets and other parts of the building.
The buffalo's top hump will be used for water basketball, Schaefbauer said, which won't disrupt lap swimmers. The "underbelly" of the buffalo is a shallow area for lawn chairs, he added.
"The fact that it's so multifunctional is really cool," he said.
The rec center's interim director Gary Chadwick said the upgrades serve as a recruiting tool for prospective students, who will be wowed when they see the new rec center.
He added that the new, more functional and more aesthetically appealing rec center encourages more students to exercise, join sports teams, socialize and build lifelong wellness habits."This is really going to be one of the stars of campus," he said.