New UCONN Rec Center Gains National Recognition

By Eric Althoff

STORRS, Conn.—The Student Recreation Center, located at the heart of the University of Connecticut’s (UCONN) Storrs campus, has been recognized by the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association as an Outstanding Facility of Merit as part of its 2021 NIRSA Awards.

The 191,000-square-foot recreation center was designed jointly by JCJ Architecture and Moody Nolan to replace an older athletic facility that offered only 25,000 square feet of space. Turner Construction, whose home base is in New York, served on the project as the general contractor.

Among the rec center’s amenities are a 20,000-square-foot fitness center, basketball and volleyball courts, running track, climbing wall, outdoor fitness spaces, as well as space that can be utilized for larger events.

One of the key features of the new recreation center, and which likely caught the attention of the NIRSA selection committee, was that UCONN wanted the new facility to be a place of inclusion, with programs focusing on personal growth and wellness for a diverse segment of students and the surrounding community.

“This project gave us the opportunity to work closely with the students, faculty and staff at UCONN and to create an exciting facility that meets the needs of this dynamic institution,” James E. LaPosta Jr., who serves as chief architectural officer at JCJ, said in a recent statement when the award was announced. “We are thrilled to have the team’s work recognized by NIRSA because of their focus on promoting the very best in design and innovative programs for collegiate recreation.”

Each year, the NIRSA Outstanding Facilities Awards recognize innovative work in collegiate recreational facilities in several categories, including renovations, ground-up and expansions. The judges examine nominees along such criteria as functionality, design and how closely the project hews to the original intentions for the recreational building. The selection process also looks for structures that will inspire other designers in the future.

In a statement to School Construction News, Cynthia Costanzo, executive director of UCONN Recreation, said the school was honored to have the Student Recreation Facility named as a 2021 NISRA Facility of Merit.

“This recognition establishes our facility amongst the best-of-the-best as we continue to strive to be leaders in collegiate recreation, helping our community to lead healthier lives,” she said.

“This past year has clearly reminded us of the importance of health and human connection,” JCJ’s LaPosta commented to School Construction News. “The Student Rec Center is a tangible representation of the University’s commitment to fostering wellness and personal growth. The NIRSA Facility of Merit designation is a testament to how the design team and the UCONN community came together to make the new Student Rec Center a reality.”