Two upperclassmen males making their way to the basketball courts in the Rec Center last week were surprised by the light permeating through the newly installed windows onto the freshly painted hallway.
“What is that? Natural light?” one lightheartedly asked.
Both agreed they like the addition before moving into the gym and becoming lost in the large crowd shooting around or playing five-on-five pickup basketball.
These students were just two of many who have noticed the new windows on the west side of the building, which illuminated the hallway with sunlight and looked out on a beach volleyball court speckled with shirtless players on the sunny Friday afternoon.
Over the summer, the Rec Center has undergone extensive work by crews getting the building ready for the rush of returning students.
Changes include the painting of the entire main corridor, installation of windows on the main west side corridor overlooking the outdoor volleyball courts, and renovation of the upstairs fitness center.
Workers also performed various odd jobs such as installing new electrical power sources and lighting, painting the stairwell and putting rubber tread on the stairs.
The total cost of renovations began in January come out to about $250,000, according to John Sweeney, director of the Department of Recreational Sports.
Sweeney is behind the continuous improvements being made at the Rec Center.
“This is the most significant renovation work that has been done to this facility since it opened 35 years ago,” he said.
Sweeney said the university is looking to address concerns that were voiced by Marquette Student Government last year, mostly relating to the size of the Rec Center.
“With the Rec, the amount of traffic, the place really gets used and used and abused,” Sweeney said.
During peak periods, the Rec Center will see more than 2,000 students per day, Sweeney said.
In addition, the Rec Center houses club teams, of which there are now 34 varieties and 900 students involved — the largest numbers of any school in the Big East, according to Sweeney.
An independent architectural firm hired by MUSG is scheduled to present options to administrators by the end of September regarding the building of a new Rec Center.
Sweeney and other Rec Center staff are fully on board with the MUSG resolution passed last year, and say they are excited to see how the university will move forward regarding the renovation or building of a new Rec Center for students in the future.
Associate Director Deb Swanson has worked at the Rec Center for 28 years, and said she remembers when the upstairs weight room was just used for storage.
“It really has come a long way,” she said, adding the building of a new recreation center is the “ultimate dream.”
Katie Mank, the student manager and building supervisor for the Rec Center, appreciates the improvements.
“It’s nice because the upstairs weight room doesn’t smell anymore,” the senior in the College of Nursing said jokingly.
The weight room has received new paint and carpet, a window overlooking the pool, and $75,000 in new cardio and weight training equipment added over the holiday break last year.
“I am thankful the university is listening to the students’ concerns,” Mank said. “It is really nice to have an administration that will address the issues like this around campus.”
For Sweeney, it is about trying to give current students the best experience he can outside of the classroom.
“For the investment we put in, we got a million-dollar return,” he said.