Wellness and Recreation Center planned for 2026
Project planners present designs in Student Union Wednesday
By 2026, a four-story wellness and recreation facility featuring pools, basketball courts and artificial turf fields will likely stand where The Commons and the University Bookstore are now located.
Representatives from CannonDesign, an integrated design firm working on the project, unveiled project boards and 3D models of the proposed Wellness and Recreation Center at the Student Union Wednesday.
The complex will house “dedicated recreational facilities” like a pool, six "traditional" basketball courts, multiple fitness centers, a rock-climbing wall, a second-level outdoor plaza and an elevated running track, according to project manager Frank Sica. In April 2019, the New York State Comptroller’s Office approved a $464,000 contract for Cannon Design’s work on the project, according to OpenBookNY.
The facility will be open to all UB students, with day passes and membership plans available for faculty and staff. The Finance and Administration Office, Athletics and Student Life have already given guidance to the project planners, who plan construction at the site of the University Bookstore. Existing recreational offices and equipment will be moved out of Alumni Arena so UB Athletics can “take over Alumni completely.” The plan will also relocate the majority of Michael Hall’s services to North Campus and refurbish South Campus’ Clark Hall.
Christina Hernandez, interim vice president for Student Life, said students voted on fee increases in September and “the approximate fee increase tested with students was a combined increase to both the health fee and the recreation fee between $285-$300.
Sica, the project manager, stressed that the project is still in development, but said UB administrators are “ready to act” on plans.
“We sat down with the directors of recreation, directors of Health Services, directors of Health Promotion determining what we need in terms of space to come up with a detailed program of different services that we needed,” Sica said. “And the administration is at the point of saying, ‘We’ve got to do something now.’”
Students believe the centralized Wellness and Recreation Center is “long overdue” but are curious about the relocation of the bookstore and concerned about how the plans will affect student fees. Some students who study on South say they are also concerned that the project’s vision will prioritize facilities on North Campus and neglect “worn-down” facilities on South Campus.
Emily Kim, a senior occupational therapy major, said she is excited about the plans because “Alumni is not in the best condition,” but she’s worried that current students are paying for the project but “won’t be around” to use it.
“I mean, it’s really cool what they are doing because Alumni is not in the best condition and it’s really small,” Kim said. “I won’t be around to use it though, which is the downside obviously. I don’t want to pay for something I’m not using.”
Since the 2005-06 academic year, UB has used $3.50 from each student’s comprehensive fee to finance the construction, according to a 2018 report from The Spectrum. As of 2018, the “Reserve Wellness Building” account held close to $2 million.
UB administrators began discussing a Wellness and Recreation Center in 2003. Since then, students and administration vetoed two project models.
Sica said the current model is more “detailed” and is based on information the development team gathered to make the project more “student-focused.”
Student Life emailed a survey to students in September to gather information about “current usage patterns and preferences for wellness and recreation space.”
Ryan Phillips, a senior mechanical engineering major, said he’s excited about the plans and said the Alumni Arena gym is “too small” to accommodate the number of students on North.
“As a freshman, I used the gym over at Alumni to lift, but I started using off-campus gyms after that because it was so annoying to try and get in there with how crowded it is,” Phillips said. “I went to Alumni at five in the morning and it was still packed, so it’s good there are plans to add more space.”
Hernandez said Student Life surveys will help estimate future project costs.
“The outcome of our [Fall 2019] study will help tell us this,” Hernandez said. “The budget will be built for the actual North Campus building, renovation to Clark Hall and for operating the programming and Health and Wellness Center.”
Hernandez said students were "tested" to be in support of the fee increases because of “the benefits of the project.”
Maredyl Biscocho, a senior occupational therapy major, does not want to pay more in student fees to fund the plans because she said the construction and renovations will primarily benefit students on North. She thinks students on South won’t have “easy access” to the new facilities.
“They’re keeping a really small satellite location on South, but they’re moving practically everything to North,” Biscocho said. “It’s kind of weird that people who are studying medicine who are on South won’t even have easy access to all these new and improved health services that they are going to put on North.”
Health Services will still be available at Clark Hall for students on South, according to Sica, but the “majority of them” will be on North Campus. The move, he explained, will give project planners more space to install radiography and imaging services, a bigger pharmacy and an urgent care clinic. These services are expected to enhance the quality of the 42,000 clinic visits UB Health Services receives on average, per year.
Diane Kim, a senior occupational therapy major, is excited about the expansion of Health Services but thinks Health Services should remain on South Campus and wonders what will happen to the bookstore.
“They don’t have to do so much construction and pay so much to move the campus bookstore,” Kim said. “This would actually be a good facility to have on South for [physical therapy] majors and students in other fields to practice what they’ve learned and shadow medical professionals.”
Hernandez said Lee Road is a good location for the center because the current campus bookstore’s contract expires next year.
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CORRECTIONS: A previous version of this article stated health services will be available still at "Michael Hall," rather than "Clark Hall," which is incorrect. The pool will not be "Olympic" sized, as a previous version of this article stated. There will be six "traditional" basketball courts, not six total as a previous version of this article stated. Students were "tested" on the fee increase, rather than "voting" on it, as a previous version of this article stated.