There is no doubt that one of the biggest benefits for a sports fan attending the University of Wisconsin is the level of competition at which the school’s varsity teams compete. It is, with little question, a true joy to go and watch athletes compete at nearly the highest level. Once more, these sports programs facilitate a communal atmosphere that undoubtedly bonds all of the student observers through a shared experience. 

Yet there is much more to every sports enthusiast than just an interest in observing sports. There also exists the element of participation that is necessary for someone to really immerse themselves in the culture of sports — and fitness as a whole — while on campus. 

Whether it’s club sports, intramural competition or just staying in shape, the best spots on campus for achieving this immersion is at recreation centers. A staple of colleges around the country, rec centers offer all students the opportunity to compete, socialize and stay in shape all throughout the year. Even when the sub-zero temperatures set in, which they surely will, Madison’s easily accessible rec centers offer a sanctuary for those who crave the physical exertion that only competition through sport or exercise brings. 

Currently awaiting completion is the brand new Nicholas Recreation Center — “the Nick” — that will be located in the Southeast portion of campus right in-between Ogg, Witte and Sellery residence halls. Scheduled to be finished in early 2020, the incoming residents of Southeast dorms will soon be greeted with the opportunity to utilize the Nick for the first time. 

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Boasting a grand total of five floors of active space, eight full-size basketball courts, five dedicated fitness studios, 29 swimming lanes and over 30,000 square feet of cardio and strength training space, the Nick will surely be an irreplaceable asset for all those who wish to participate in the many offered student sports programs or who simply want to get fit. 

For anyone who does not find themselves in Southeast residence halls during the year, there is nothing to fear. The largest current rec center, the Natatorium, is located on Observatory drive. It’s in close proximity to Lakeshore residence halls. It too contains multiple basketball courts, swimming lanes, weight and cardio areas as well as its own dedicated training studios. 

Though staying in shape is one of the most important things to focus on while dealing with the challenges of college, perhaps even more important is finding a place within the campus community. For those who function well in a competitive environment, rec centers in Madison are the home of building this competitive bond with fellow students. 

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During an examination of basketball culture at the Shell, the famed rec center located under the imposing shadow of Camp Randall, this idea of forging close bonds through sport clearly revealed itself. 

UW student Nick Johnston said no matter where the competition comes from, athletes welcome those who wish to join them in their endeavor to forge friendships through sport.

“No matter who you play against or with it is still a tight community, what is on the court is different than what is off the court.” 

For those who wish to continue their competitive habits or strike up new ones, there exists no place better than the rec centers to reap the benefits of sports. 

Despite one’s time management skills or academic drive, there come times when each and every student will be stressed during the course of the school year. What better way exists to relieve that stress than through the very resources offered by UW’s rec centers? 

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On this very topic, Johnston elaborated on his experience with basketball at the Shell.

“It’s natural for humans to have a drive to compete. We come to the Shell to compete and get all that bound up energy out,” he said.

This experience is not limited to the basketball community, as any student that wishes to find friendly yet stiff competition amongst their peers will certainly have the opportunity to do so at one of the rec centers in Madison. 

As a Big Ten school, UW has the resources at its disposable necessary to provide a rewarding athletic experience for all those who are interested in sports and participating in them. All it takes is a short walk to the nearest rec center to discover a world of competition and fitness that is only available within a community of thousands of like-minded students.