Demolition of Connecticut Commons will begin “almost immediately” after commencement in May and will continue through the fall, according to University of Connecticut officials and JCJ Architecture representatives Wednesday.
The new student recreation center, set to be constructed on the site of Connecticut Commons, is “on track” to be opened by January 2019, said Michael Schrier, director of design for UConn planning, architecture and engineering services.
The facility will provide about five times as much activity space as the current building, officials said at a presentation at the Undergraduate Student Government Senate Wednesday night.
The preliminary design is currently in the schematic design phase, and still needs to be approved by the university, said Dick Friedson, the principal designer on the project from JCJ Architecture.
After the design documents are finalized, the university will go out to bid on contracts in February. Construction is expected to begin this time 2017.
The facility is projected to be 185,000 square feet with three floors of activity zones, including gyms, athletic courts and multipurpose rooms, administrative space, “free zones” for socializing and information, and a support zone for equipment storage, facility maintenance and UConn Outdoor programs.
“We have approximately 32,000 square feet of just fitness space that supports 400 to 500 pieces of equipment,” said Cindy Costanzo, executive director of recreation. “We have less than 100 (pieces of equipment) now.”
Additional changes to the surrounding campus area could include possibly eliminating the “turnaround” outside the current Connecticut Commons buildings. No additional parking is planned for the facility, which some members of USG said could be a concern for commuter students.
“We tried to think about what a student’s life is like during the day,” Costanzo said. “What we want to do is encourage the students who don’t use the building right now.”
Day-long locker usage and more open, social space in the design are ways that officials hope students will get more involved with the center.
The first floor of the building is currently dedicated for two “fitness neighborhoods” for free weights and machines, locker rooms, bouldering wall and climbing tower and two swimming pools, one for recreation activities and the other an eight-lane lap pool.
Costanzo said one of the fitness rooms in the proposed plan has more fitness space than all current areas on campus combined.
Men’s, women’s and gender neutral locker rooms are also situated on the first floor. Costanzo said the gender neutral locker rooms have much more private spaces for students to change, shower and store their belongings. Gender neutral bathrooms are also present in the facility.
The second floor was shown to have multipurpose rooms and additional training rooms that look onto North Hillside Road and the Business School quad. Basketball, racquetball and multi-use courts, as well as a one-sixth mile running track will be housed in the third floor.
The $75 million cost of the building will be paid for by student fee increases negotiated with USG three years ago, Costanzo said. The fee will only be leveed to students that will use the new recreation center in their time at UConn.
Schrier said one of the main goals of the building is to be constructed in a way that is ecologically sustainable. He said the project is targeted at becoming U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certified, the highest certification of environmental construction. Rooftop solar hot water heaters, photovoltaic panels, recyclable building materials and sustainable landscaping are all included in the preliminary design, though some features may be eliminated because of cost.
“Everything comes at a cost,” Schrier said. “We can probably get there with sacrificing some of these (LEED Gold) things, if the cost would mean cutting into program areas in the building.”
Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.