Wildcat work-out

Students are crazy about Chico State’s shiny new recreation center

HOT SPOT <br> Chico State junior Rod Hawkins gets ready for the basketball season at the new Wildcat Recreation Center.

Chico State junior Rod Hawkins gets ready for the basketball season at the new Wildcat Recreation Center.

Photo By meredith j. cooper

If you are looking for a sign of the economic recession, you won’t find it at the new Wildcat Recreation Center at Chico State.

“Everybody is just blown away by how beautiful it is,” said Rick Scott, director of the WREC at West Second and Orange streets.

The 130,000-square-foot facility includes a 17,000-square-foot weight and fitness area. Other amenities: a rock-climbing wall, a pool and hot tub, four group exercise rooms, three full-size basketball courts, a multi-activity court and more. But Scott is most excited about something else that is on everyone’s minds—money.

“Do you want me to tell you what feature, if [students] knew about it, they’d really be pleased with?” he asked. “Cost savings.”

The total cost of the WREC is $65 million, but the project is currently $2 million under budget overall, he explained. One of the biggest ways the planners saved money was by installing a solar pool heater. The original design called for gas heaters to heat the pool during the winter months. The solar panels will give five to seven months of free heat, saving an estimated $90,000 each year.

Other cost- and resource-saving measures Scott noted include low-flow shower heads and automated light systems; using digital locker locks rather than hiring someone to hand out and retrieve locks (saving $25,000 annually); and basketball courts that require resurfacing every eight to 10 years rather than annually (saving $30,000 to $40,000 each year).

OFF THE WALL<br>WREC Director Rick Scott shows off the impressive climbing wall, which spans two floors.

Photo By meredith j. cooper

Even better, Scott said all the money saved will fund programs for students—who essentially own the building.

“[Students] are going to have a place that they can go recreate that they’re paying for,” he said.

To fund construction and ongoing maintenance of the center, which has an annual operating budget of $2.4 million, all Chico State students will pay an additional $175 per semester in student fees starting this fall semester.

The student body approved the fee increase during a referendum back in 2005. A pledge of $5 million from university coffers buoyed the measure.

Faculty and staff will be able to purchase a membership for $200 each semester. Scott said there are currently no provisions for alumni or the local community to use the facility.

“It’s really going to be focused on the students. A customer comes in and they’re going to see students. They’re not going to see me. … They’re going to see students out on the floor, so they’re going to feel like it’s their home,” Scott said.

Moreover, the WREC will employ about 200 students and 16 full-time professional staff, Scott said. One of those students working in the new building is 23-year-old Tony Capretto, graduate assistant coordinator for the sport club teams.

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Capretto, a self-described “sports freak,” works for the Recreational Sports Department, which relocated to the WREC from its outdated housing in Acker Gym. The new facility will allow him to gain more experience for his graduate degree in sports administration and leadership that he is currently pursuing at Chico State.

“If I wanted to go and do an operations position, I could potentially do so because I know how this can come up from the seed to the big center that it is now,” Capretto said of the WREC. “The autonomy I have received from pretty much day one has allowed me to become a better leader.”

Capretto said the facility is getting glowing responses from people who have visited it.

“I have been doing tours and I have never seen so many smiles on people’s faces. It’s amazing. People are so excited for this place to open,” he said. “I have been to a lot of rec centers, and this beats it. It beats all of them.”

Scott and Capretto are also beaming with anticipation for the facility’s doors to open on Aug. 17. The grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 27. Scott thinks the WREC will do great things for students.

“It’s going to attract them, keep them and improve their mental and physical health,” he said.