A major $22 million renovation and expansion of the popular recreation complex is underway

A major $22 million renovation and expansion  of the popular recreation complex is underway

It was an exciting day in 1979 on the Fairfield campus when the Leslie C. Quick Jr. Recreation Complex first opened. The new 40,000-square-foot building boasted a 25-meter swimming pool, a four-court fieldhouse, racquetball courts and more.

For the past 36 years, the “RecPlex” — as it is commonly known — has served the University well. In 1996, renovations added space for cardio equipment alongside the lobby and that has worked until now. But the needs have changed again. As Jim Fitzpatrick ’70, assistant vice president noted, “It’s definitely time for more than a new coat of paint.”

With over 90 percent of the student body using the RecPlex, as well as many staff and faculty, there’s no question that the building is bursting at the seams. On any given day, from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., there’s a constant hum of activity. Space is tight, and there is often a wait to use the cardio equipment. General recreation and conditioning classes, such as yoga, Zumba and pilates, fill up quickly.

The Birkenstock Fieldhouse courts inside the RecPlex are in constant use for intramural basketball, floor hockey, club volleyball and indoor soccer. The pool is home base for University, Prep, and local high school  swimming and diving teams. Club sports, such as martial arts, work out in the main fitness room downstairs. Fairfield Prep also takes advantage of the space for wrestling, swimming and freshman basketball.

A major 13,000-square-foot addition and extensive renovation to the building has just gotten underway. Construction will greatly expand fitness and weight-training space and make fitness much more accessible to students and staff alike.

First-year student Hunter Boesch ’18, typical of many students, is a frequent user of the facility. “The RecPlex is very important to me,” he said. “I’ll take some laps in the pool to cool down after a rugby game, or work out late at night. With the new renovations, Fairfield will match our peer schools. I think the changes will be a huge selling point with prospective students. I’m excited for what is to come!”

To implement the renovation, the University has contracted with Newman Architects, of New Haven, Conn. The firm is familiar with the University’s needs, having handled the recent creation and renovation of two residence halls, Meditz Hall and Dolan Hall.

“We identified two major goals to guide our work,” noted Newman’s principal architect leading the design, Joe Schiffer. “We wanted to create a lively environment of activity and affiliation. And we wanted to create a design which ‘centers’ the new structure, linking Alumni Hall and the Field House into a unified overall complex.”

The most dramatic aspect of the renovation will be the creation of a new upper-level mezzanine for cardio equipment overlooking Loyola Boulevard, the road from the University’s main entrance. The new space will be bright and welcoming, a “see-and-be-seen” venue. The two-story entry hall will connect all three levels with open stairs.

“The new entry will be like a tall ‘gate’ increasing its visibility along Loyola Blvd. and as a campus destination,” said Schiffer. “There will be a spirit of connection and vitality reinforced throughout the facility.”

Four additional multi-purpose rooms and spaces for classes will be created. An elevated indoor running/walking track will be built within the existing Fieldhouse.

In addition, floor surfaces throughout will be modernized for increased usage; the Fieldhouse will be at last be air-conditioned; and new, dedicated locker rooms for the University’s varsity swimming and diving teams will be built. The Field House floor surface will be modified to accomodate indoor tennis usage by the University teams.

“New locker rooms are an excellent recruiting tool, which I have already begun boasting about to the 2016 recruits,” said Janelle Atkinson-Wignall, head men’s and women’s swimming coach. “Knowing that their class will be the first to use it is quite exciting for them and an added bonus for me. The team is also excited to see what the finished product will look like.”

Thanks to a generous challenge gift of $10 million from University Trustee and alumnus John C. Meditz ’70, a $5 million donation in response to that challenge from an anonymous donor, an additional $1 million gift from Mark Beckwith ’80 and family; and several additional gifts, construction on the RecPlex has already begun. The target completion date is August 2016.  During the renovation, workout equipment will be temporarily relocated to the existing weight room on the lower level of Alumni Hall.

“The RecPlex is such a hub of activity for our students,” said Dr. Thomas Pellegrino ’90, senior vice president of Student Affairs. “I am seeing in our current students an increased interest in healthy lifestyles.  Students routinely tell me that Fairfield can and should be known as a place where the healthiest students go. I love that mentality. And I love the facility myself. It’s been part of my life for many years. I can personally attest to the fact that there’s a feeling of momentum on campus. This renovation and expansion is a big part of that — a positive step forward for the entire University.”