New Recreation, Fitness Center Wins Another Award

Contact: Kenda Scheele, 581- 1403; George Manlove, 581-3756

ORONO — The University of Maine Student Recreation and Fitness Center has become one of 10 new building projects throughout the United States and Canada to receive a prestigious 2008 Athletic Business Facility of Merit Award from Athletic Business Magazine.

The award, accepted Dec. 5 in San Antonio, Texas by representatives from the UMaine Division of Student Affairs and the Canon Design firm in Boston, is the seventh major design award the 87,000-square-foot facility has received since opening in August 2007.

“Out of all the awards we have received, this is perhaps the pinnacle,” says Kenda Scheele, senior associate dean of students, noting that the Athletic Business Magazine award is more competitive than many other design awards.

“It puts us on top at a national level. It really pushed the University of Maine out on the national stage. We get emails and phone calls from people all over the country who have read about these awards,” Scheele says.

The largest building project ever undertaken by the University of Maine, the state-of-the-art center appears to be effective in inspiring UMaine students to get more exercise. One of the most advanced recreation and fitness centers north of Boston, it also has attracted large numbers of UMaine faculty, staff and members of surrounding communities.

Before the center was built, the university’s previous fitness center, Latti Fitness Center at the Memorial Gym, saw about 2,000 people a week at the busiest times, according to Kristie Deschane, associate director for Campus Recreation, and Jeff Hunt, director of Campus Recreation and its programs.

At the new center, “we see over 2000 people on peak days, and average between 1500-1700 people per weekday during the academic year,” Deschesne says.

“The number of people who are engaging in physical activities is just going through the roof,” says Hunt.

Earlier this year, the center received the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association’s “Outstanding Sports Facility” award, and also has received awards from the Society of American Registered Architects, the Associated General Contractors of America and Starnet Design Awards, among others.

The new recreation and fitness center also carries internationally recognized LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which makes it one of the few silver-certified fitness centers in the United States, Scheele says. LEED certification rates new or renovated buildings in green design categories that include sustainability, efficiency and environmental quality.

The quality of the recreation and fitness center has helped with student recruitment and retention, according to Hunt, and it helps the university attract top-notch researchers and employees.

Robert Dana, dean of students, says the university expected the center to have an important impact on the campus in many ways.

“I am delighted to report that the impact, far greater than we predicted, has been transformative,” he says. “The utilization is remarkable and day after day we hear students tell us ‘this is central to my UMaine experience; I feel welcomed here and this place is the best.’

“Student satisfaction is remarkably high and this means high use. I couldn’t ask for any better outcome,” Dana says.

As of this week, the center had logged more than 465,000 member visits.