Three-and-a-half years after breaking ground, the Student Recreation Center's highly anticipated expansion opened Monday, adding more than 42,000 square feet of exercise space.
The $28.5 million facility houses hundreds of new, state-of-the-art workout machines — several featuring individual television screens — an outdoor bouldering wall, two outdoor volleyball courts, a transformable multi-activity court and a projector that will broadcast sporting events.
At 1 p.m. opening day, Rec Center counts reflected 133 users in the new, two-story weight room, exceeding the maximum 130 person occupancy limit of the old one.
""The students who planned this had the foresight to look at establishing a facility that they felt was necessary,"" said Campus Recreation Director Juliette Moore.
Most of the current students agree with the planners and were happy with the new extension.
""I was in awe. It's the nicest gym in Arizona,"" said Melissa Watkins, a psychology junior who also instructs Zumba and Muscle Pump at the Rec Center. ""It's spacious and the equipment is fantastic.""
Kyle Greywall, a freshman, said the higher ceilings help him stay cool while doing cardio.
Watkins, who teaches classes at two other gyms in Tucson, including L.A. Fitness, also said she likes that there is equipment tailored for women on the second floor.
""This equipment is top-of-the-line, the other stuff was older than I am,"" said Michael Crowe, a criminal justice junior overseeing the weight room on opening day.
People who have used the gym over the years are excited for the new opportunities.
""There's more options to do different things,"" said Mike Figueroa, a UA alumnus who still uses the Rec Center.
Even first time visitors were impressed with the addition.
""We don't have anything like this back at home, not at the university anyway,"" said Oliver Gill, an international exchange student from Brisbane, Australia.
Rec Center officials say they've already seen positive results from the opening.
""Right now we would have already had to have had a line,"" said Adam Stott, a Rec Center facilities maintenance supervisor and chemistry senior, who noted that the level was not normal for mid-day and may be due to the hype of the new facility.
Background on Rec Center funding
Students have been paying a mandatory $25-per-semester fee since 1990 for the expansion to the Rec Center. Students voted in 1985 to attach the fee to semester tuition and again in 2005 to continue the fee for another 30 years, until bonding for the project is paid off.
It will be a few months before reports from contractors reflect the actual cost of the construction, which was paid for with $28.5 million in bonds, according to the president of the UA Budget Office.
The new facility is smaller than originally planned but was reduced to keep student fees at $25 per semester.
School documents list the original size at 108,000 square feet.
""We tried to forecast the future, but we're not fortune tellers,"" Moore said.
Campus Rec has proposed additional fees in conjunction with Campus Health Services to maintain both student and full-time staffing at the Rec Center.
""We planned to have staffing through the state funding source, "" Moore said. ""Now that it's built we need to be able to keep it staffed.""
In addition to more employees, the Rec now offers a special trainer for people with disabilities.
The Rec Center is waiting for the results of a survey being conducted through Monday for students' willingness to pay more in fees.
""I think paying an extra fee to have machines like this available — it's definitely worth it,"" Jessica Brennen, an undecided freshman said.
Figueroa graduated from the UA in 1973 and said he would support the idea of only students who use the gym paying a fee, rather than a campus-wide fee.
Watkins agreed that students who don't use the Rec Center shouldn't have to pay more in fees, but she did not like the idea of having to pay more.
Alluring architecture adds to appeal
Stott hopes students driving down Sixth Street will be enticed by the building's sleek design.
The original Student Recreation Center was built in 1990. The new facility was built to address what Campus Recreation said were students' main suggestions: more space, fewer lines and better equipment.
The new facility features a fully glass north wall facing Sixth Street and was designed to prevent sun from blinding gym users.
""It's futuristic,"" Brennan said.
Moore said all the equipment was purchased from different leading sports equipment companies to provide variety.
""We went with equipment that we felt would be good, durable equipment and on which we would be able to make repairs,"" Moore said.