RecWell Center in national spotlight with NIRSA 2024 Outstanding Facilities Award

Since first opening its doors in January 2023, Quinnipiac’s aspirational Recreation and Wellness Center on the Mount Carmel Campus has drawn thousands of enthusiastic Bobcats to visit its intentionally designed spaces which encourage fitness, wellness, and community. Now, the RecWell Center is in the national spotlight, as the recipient of the National Intramural Recreation and Sports Association (NIRSA) 2024 Outstanding Facilities Award.

“It’s an award that identifies a facility that works really well for the students,” said Salvatore Filardi, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning. “We try to build facilities that meet the programs of the university and satisfy the need. I think this award confirms that we did it right.”

With its strong commitment to sustainability, Quinnipiac continues to build the university of the future. Facilities are developed through a collaborative planning and design process, said Filardi.

“We made sure all the Recreation and Wellness players were at the table talking to the design team, so the design team could understand the big picture and work with us through the design,” said Filardi. 

For the NIRSA recognition, judges also took into consideration the huge jump in RecWell weekly visits from students, staff, and faculty tapping in since opening; up 300%. Additionally, a 2023 survey of incoming students ranked RecWell as one of the top five reasons why new students chose to attend Quinnipiac.

“One of the judges said that it would be the number one building that they would want to bring prospective students through. That’s an impressive statement,” said Filardi.

Building architects design LAB and S3 Design, Inc. worked with members of the Quinnipiac team from the point of project inception.

“The university was really supportive throughout the entire process of building and construction, and the architects were really receptive to all of the feedback that we were able to give them,” said John Somers, Associate Director of Recreation. “The university and President Olian really and truly wanted to invest in recreation, and absolutely came through on that.”

Quinnipiac went the extra mile to develop and outfit a recreational facility that surpasses expectations, Somers said.

“The equipment that we have here is among the best of the best. It’s equipment you won’t necessarily see in a lot of other collegiate recreation centers -- you’d see it more in varsity athletic training spaces. We wanted to make this feel as state-of-the-art of a facility as possible. Giving all of our students that varsity, D1 athletic feel was important to us, while also keeping the facility as welcome and inviting to newcomers as possible,” said Somers.

Among notable design aspects stated in NIRSA’s recognition are RecWell’s expansive windowed walls, which embrace the natural beauty of the campus as well as impressive vistas of the hills of Sleeping Giant State Park.

“One of the design pieces that the architects were tasked with and executed very well was trying to bring the outside in,” Somers said. “There’s a lot of natural light which is very inviting. It doesn’t feel like you’re ‘stuck in a gym’ when you come in here. Every piece of cardio is outward facing so not only do you get a really nice view of the gorgeous campus, but it draws those people from the outside in. Especially at night when it’s lit up and you can see people in the dance studio. It was important for us to showcase how vibrant and active this campus is; so we’re very excited to receive NIRSA’s recognition. It’s a huge honor for us, and a huge testament to design LAB and S3 Design. Both firms did a phenomenal job.”

RecWell’s building materials incorporate locally sourced stone and wood and the facility also features extraordinary, plant-based living walls. NIRSA describes the center as a “comprehensive wellness ecosystem.”

“This facility has just elevated the perception that our whole community has that health and wellness is so important to the Quinnipiac community as a whole,” said Tami Reilly, Director of Fitness and Well Being. “When we built this space, we were intentional in not just providing a gym. We really wanted spaces that were a little bit unique and that would appeal to the non-traditional user.”

Reilly said RecWell is a place where students can not only gather to relax and commune but also find all of Quinnipiac’s health and wellness offerings in one place.

“We love that the university was committed to putting our Health Center and our Counseling Center in here. We love that our Hartford HealthCare partners are here, and that the smoothie bar is here so that you have nourishment, and that there are spaces to just relax,” said Reilly. “In the lobby, people can commune or work on projects together. On the second floor, we have quiet chairs where people can sit and do work. Just looking at every last detail that we’ve put in here, it really has reached a lot more users.”

Assistant Director of Recreation Kaylee Laing said a survey deployed this year asked students about the things they liked about RecWell and areas which could be improved. 

“We got a lot of good information from them. There are lot of things they enjoyed that we won’t be changing, but also, we’re looking forward to using some of the things that they still feel like they need from us, to help push the center into the future,” said Laing. “We’re definitely still growing, but it felt good to know that where we were this year was exceptional.”

Laing joined Quinnipiac shortly before the new center opened in 2023. She said the impressive facility illustrates the support of the university and shows how much Quinnipiac cares about the well-being of students.

“The intentionality of the university in allowing us to cover all areas and all dimensions of wellness has tremendously helped the students in not just becoming better, but also understanding wellness from our perspective,” said Laing.

She said not only the size of the facility, but its layout, has allowed for more constituents of the university to be comfortable using the fitness center.

“We’re seeing a lot more faculty and staff than we typically would, especially because this facility has all of its different areas and spaces where classes and programs can be offered. It really has become a hub for the community,” said Laing. “There are different spaces in the fitness center where folks can feel comfortable learning and practicing fitness, despite challenges they think they might have to getting up and moving around.  We installed a TV with a touchscreen in the functional fitness space, so if you’re a beginner or at an intermediate level, it shows you how to create workouts based on what we have in that space. So we’ve been able to be super intentional and inclusive as well.”

By offering evolving, intentional programming, Quinnipiac’s RecWell Center is meeting the needs of students, today and in the future, said Laing.

“Right now, students are looking for a space to work out and really connect with their wellness. And for our younger students, it’s been a really big part of their social structure,” said Laing. “This is a space that shows that the university cares and is ready to support the students and meet their needs.”

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