In an announcement Tuesday, the University of Wisconsin detailed plans for the construction of the Nicholas Recreation Facility, which will replace the recently demolished Southeast Recreation Facility.
The new facility will be named in honor of Albert and Nancy Nicholas, who have donated millions of dollars to UW throughout the past few decades.
The Southeast Recreation Facility, popularly referred to as the SERF, stood for 34 years before demolition in fall 2017. The Nicholas Recreation Facility, which UW has colloquially referred to as the “Nick,” will replace the SERF both in its location and in function, serving as the recreational-sports facility and gymnasium for the southeastern end of campus.
UW said funding for the Nick’s construction will come in-part from a $20 million donation from Nancy Nicholas, in honor of her late husband Albert Nicholas.
The Nicholas family was in talks with the university to replace and improve the SERF shortly before Albert Nicholas died in 2016. After his death, Nancy Nicholas and her children decided to go forward with Albert Nicholas’s plan to donate money in support of a new recreational sports facility in the southeast neighborhood of campus.
Nancy Nicholas said she decided to donate money in support of the Nick because all students can enjoy it and have access to it, rather than other projects that may only benefit a select number of students.
The Nicholas’s $20-million donation will be split up, with $15 million allocated toward the Nick’s construction and the remaining $5 million going toward the construction of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The pool, which will be housed within the Nick, will be shared by the UW Division of Athletics and the varsity swimming team.
The Nick’s construction is only the second phase of a larger plan to revamp recreational sports facilities at UW. According to the Rec Sports master plan, other phases include new athletic fields on the east and west ends of campus, which opened in May 2017, and an eventual reconstruction of the Lakeshore neighborhood’s recreational sports facility, the Natatorium.
UW said it saw support for the Rec Sports master plan in a recent referendum, in which 87 percent of student participants expressed support for adopting the initiative.
As for the Nick, it is expected to open in 2019. The new facility will increase fitness space offered at UW fivefold, and the new swimming pool will be twice as large as what was offered at the SERF. The UW Division of Recreational Sports said the new facility aims to promote the physical, social and mental wellbeing of students.