New $16.7 million Campus Recreation Center opens

Above: Dozens gather for the opening of the Campus Recreation Center. (WCU photo by student Jarrett Frazier)

Above: Dozens gather for the opening of the Campus Recreation Center. (WCU photo by student Jarrett Frazier)

Western Carolina University’s new $16.7 million Campus Recreation Center opened for the first time on Sunday, Aug. 17.

“I’m really in awe,” said Dominique Keaton, a senior geology major from Jacksonville, who was among the students who arrived early for the opening of the center. Keaton and others stood outside for 15 minutes before the 1 p.m. opening, but said they had waited much longer – months and years – to be able to use the facility. “I’m glad to see my student fees went to something this awesome,” said Keaton, who planned to return later to test out the indoor track.

In the building’s 73,000 square feet of space, visitors can ascend a 50-foot climbing wall; play basketball or volleyball on two multipurpose courts; lift weights; get their heart rate up on treadmills or other cardiovascular equipment; or meet with a personal trainer in a private fitness assessment room. Upstairs, they can join a yoga, step, spinning or other class in one of two mirror-lined group exercise studios, or walk or jog on the indoor one-eighth-mile track.

CRC__WCU___Wall_web08Within 30 minutes of the opening, students were tied in to harnesses at the climbing wall (pictured at left) attempting routes with names such as “Barbie Disco” and “Lazy River.” Philip Johnson, a freshman from Salisbury who said his previous climbing experiences was limited to trees, was among the first to climb high enough to retrieve a free long-sleeved shirt featuring the new Catamount logo. “It was fun and a good workout,” said Johnson, who added that he’ll be back to climb again.

Other students such as Leah Thomas, a freshman from Atlanta, and Montana Napier, a freshman from Clayton, visited Sunday just to tour the facility. “It’s limitless,” said Thomas.

Meredith Morgan, a senior parks and recreation management major from Gastonia and the center’s group exercise specialist, said the facility offers a vast array of activities for students. “Almost everywhere inside, there’s a sense of space and also curiosity because you can see from one area to another – from the treadmills to the climbing wall, or from the indoor track to the basketball courts,” said Morgan. “When incoming students see the center, they are excited – as I am – to get to use new equipment in a new facility that offers as many fun fitness activities as you can think of.”

Kellie Angelo Monteith, director of campus recreation and wellness, said the facility is one of the finest she has seen.

“I walked in and thought, ‘Western is so lucky’ – lucky to have this facility and lucky to have it in such a great location,” said Monteith. “You can socialize in the outside quad area and then walk on the track at the recreation center before getting a cup of coffee and going to a meeting at the University Center. We’re also close to the bookstore and across the lawn from the dining hall and residence halls that are under construction now.”

The opening Sunday, Aug. 17, came nearly three years after the university broke ground on the project. At the formal ground-breaking, Chancellor John W. Bardo described the facility as a key part of the development of WCU into a “true university community” – a community that students would feel connected to for the rest of their lives. “You do not create that lifetime relationship just in the classroom,” said Bardo at the center’s groundbreaking. “You also create it through the activities that take place outside the classroom and through a sense of belonging to a community.”

The Campus Recreation Center’s regular hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Students need only to present their CatCards to gain access. In August, faculty and staff can show their CatCards to try the center for free. Memberships will be available for faculty, staff and their families, as well as alumni, to purchase each semester. For more information, check out the Web site for the Campus Recreation Center.

A formal dedication ceremony for the center will be held at a later date.