The Nicholas Recreation Center has been holding focus groups over the past few weeks to gather student opinions on changes in fitness and strength equipment, according to University of Wisconsin Recreation and Wellbeing Associate Director of Programs Erik Jaeke.
In the Spring of 2012, students asked the RecWell to examine a Master Plan for new recreational facilities on campus. At the time, the old, outdated recreational buildings did not serve the campus demand for fitness spaces. Facilities were overcrowded and did not meet the standards and needs of students at UW.
As a result, students voted for a plan that would introduce new recreational facilities. In March 2014, a record high of 87% of students voted in support of this project that included the construction of two new buildings and two new outdoor fields, according to RecWell.
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In 2020, the Nick opened as the first major building project for this Master Plan. With 30,000 square feet of fitness space, 8 full-sized basketball courts, 5 multipurpose studios, a 50-meter pool and diving well and more, the facility is one of the most visited places on campus, Jaeke said.
During the busiest times of the school year, including the start of the semesters and beginning of the new year, the Nick sees an average of 5,000 students per day. Overall, the Nick sees more than 1.1 million entry swipes every year, with daily averages varying depending on timeframes, Jaeke said.
Because of this, the use of different equipment varies year round. When the Nick was in development, RecWell created a fitness equipment replacement plan. The plan stated that every three years, they would look at replacing any variation of cardio equipment that needs renewal and every seven years they would do the same for strength equipment, Jaeke said.
Since the Nick is nearing its three year mark, RecWell has begun looking at the equipment they’ve had since pre-COVID.
“When we bought the equipment at the time, the trend in fitness was still that cardio was the biggest thing on the planet and everybody was doing cardio, and strength was kind of a second place,” Jaeke said. “When we bought that equipment, we were really focused on cardio. Then, obviously, COVID happened and a lot of change in the fitness industry over the course of those two-ish years during COVID and right after, strength has just become so much more popular across all student users.”
Because strength training has become so popular, RecWell is looking into replacing some of its cardio equipment with strength equipment. To ensure that this is something that students would want, they’ve held focus groups to gather their opinions.
Each focus group meeting consisted of a powerpoint of the plans for the Nick’s equipment changes and allowed up to 12 students to attend and voice their opinions. One student, Aiden Dalby, used this meeting to voice his opinion.
“I tend not to come because of how busy it is but every time that I have I always see the same problems and figured I’d come and give my input,” Dalby said.
The Nick strives to create opportunities for students to train hard, stay fit and live well, along with other recreational centers on campus. Because of this and the warranty that the equipment is under, the RecWell staff believes that it’s time for a change in strength and fitness equipment to ensure that Badgers have adequate tools when working out, Assistant Director of Nick Operations Corrine Pruett said.
“Instead of just replacing [equipment,] we wanted to use this as an opportunity to reevaluate the change in trends that we’ve seen from the initial conversations that were had with students when the facility was originally built,” Pruett said.
The new equipment is set to be purchased in April, with the old machines and floor plans being replaced and rearranged throughout the summer in the Nick. Students can expect to see changes on the floor by next fall, Jaeke said.