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NIRSA Honors Two HOK-Designed Recreation Centers in 2021 Outstanding Facilities Awards

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Nicholas Recreation Center and the University of Mississippi’s South Campus Recreation Center have been recognized by the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) as 2021 Outstanding Facilities winners.

The annual awards recognize new buildings, renovations and expansions that demonstrate excellence in architectural design, function and creativity while elevating the higher education experience for students. The projects, designed by HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice, were selected for exemplifying innovation in recreational facility design.

The new Nicholas Recreation Center (above and below), which opened in the fall of 2020, offers a plethora of health and wellness opportunities for the University of Wisconsin-Madison community. Completed in collaboration with Workshop, the new rec center replaced the Southeast Recreational Facility (SERF). Open fitness neighborhoods, a central stair and ample use of interior glass all enhance connectivity and help users navigate through the five-story building. Direct views between the open fitness area and new natatorium strengthen the link between the two spaces.

The program responds to current fitness trends with 30,000 square feet of dedicated space for strength, cardio and functional fitness; an eight-basketball court gymnasium accommodating multiple uses; five exercise studios; areas for comprehensive wellness programming; a multi-level indoor track with views onto the Capitol; racquetball courts; a turf area; offices; classrooms; and an Olympic-sized pool with a separate diving well and seating for 1,000 spectators.

The design of the South Campus Recreation Center at Ole Miss (below) transformed an abandoned Whirlpool manufacturing plant into a new hub for fitness, wellness and recreation. The warehouse space previously featured tilt-up, precast panels. The design team, which included JBHM Architecture, opened these up with a dramatic curtainwall that showcases the activity happening within.

With an indoor climbing wall as the centerpiece of the space, programming includes 25,000 square feet of fitness space, three fitness studios, two basketball courts, a multi-activity court, a track, a classroom demonstration kitchen, a convenience store and offices. There are dedicated spaces for wellness education, outdoor programming and personal training. Two fields for intramural sports, sport clubs and informal recreation are adjacent to the facility, which serves as a campus transportation hub connecting the site to Ole Miss’s main campus.

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