The newest changes to the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center were made in accordance with COVID-19 protocols to keep students safe, officials said.
The RWC finished its renovations on Aug. 26, after undergoing maintenance in July. The changes include rubberized flooring for the main RWC facility and a brand-new, spacious 1,000 square-foot turf area upstairs.
RWC Executive Director James Wilkening said he is very excited for the renovations made and what it could mean for student engagement.
“I want as many people to come in and take advantage and be involved in the opportunities that we have,” Wilkening said. “I don’t want to do anything ever to restrict access - I’m trying to encourage more access.”
Wilkening, who became executive director in 2015, said the flooring in the fitness area was the driving force behind the renovations. He said the new flooring will last longer and not deteriorate as quickly. These innovations, he said, will help the look and feel of the center while better serving the students' needs.
“We’re always looking for things to do to enhance the operation (of the RWC facility),” Wilkening said. “It was, at minimum, 10 years old, but up to 15 years old in certain spots, even a little bit longer.”
With campus resuming full-capacity operations, RWC Associate Director Sarah Hunt said the RWC will see a jump in the number of students entering the facility. This reinforces the RWC's spacing of the exercise machines in the main facility for student safety.
She was involved with the renovations project and said about 2,800 students on average came in the first week of the fall semester, which was a spike compared to the average numbers during the pandemic.
Hunt, who's been with the RWC since 2005, said the center was challenged.
“It could be 900 (students)," Hunt said. "We actually reduced the operating hours at that, but it could vary. We’re not seeing even close to those numbers like we would now.”
The cleanliness of the facility and following mask guidelines, Wilkening said, will be key factors in preventing a COVID-19 outbreak.
“We’ve always taken (cleanliness) very seriously, anyway, so it wasn't a full-sail change to what we have done in the past,” Wilkening said. “We really take that approach, and we also encourage the user to clean the equipment as well.”
Such sanitation measures give students more opportunities to safely use the RWC's equipment. Transfer student Alexander Capasso, a junior exercise science major, started his first semester on Monday and said the RWC does a good job of making the facility clean and safe for students.
“They have a lot of wipes everywhere, and even when the wipes run out, they have towels and spray bottles,” Capasso said.
Along with making sure students are safe, the RWC staff members said they hope students enjoy using the facility. With renovations complete, Wilkening said the goal is to have a high-quality facility students can use.
“What that translates to is being able to get a first-class recreational center with top-of-the-line equipment, with all working toward helping them achieve a healthy lifestyle,” Wilkening said.
Wilkening said students will see a new high-intensity interval training station added to the RWC by the end of the month.
The center will be resuming its normal hours of operation of 6 a.m.-12 a.m. every Monday through Thursday.