NIRSA Outstanding Sports Facility: USU's Aggie Recreation Center (ARC)

ARC exterior view

Executive Summary

The state-of-the-art Aggie Recreation Center at Utah State University creates a new physical and visual gateway for students to their surroundings while activating a central corridor on campus to promote wellness.

Correlation to the Campus Master Plan and Mission

The facility ties into the existing campus master plan and augments the inviting, interactive and vibrant Logan campus community. The project was identified as a need when developing the university’s latest master plan and was included as one of the focuses of USU’s five-year plan. The addition of the Aggie Recreation Center on campus was necessary to adequately meet the needs of today’s USU students who recognize the value of recreation and wellness as part of their college experience. As the university continues to grow, the facility offers an opportunity to attract new students and promote healthy living on campus. Additional campus-employment opportunities for students serves as an added bonus. The mission of the department is to help students be successful physically, mentally and emotionally by offering opportunities through play, wellness and adventure.

Intended and actual impact to your recreation program?

The Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building (HPER) was built in 1972 and the Nelson Field House was built in 1939. Some improvements have been made over the years, however, it was clear that USU’s recreational facilities had become outdated, had fallen behind the standards and trends of its peer institutions and were inadequate to meet the growing demand for indoor recreation space on campus and support the healthy lifestyle activities of USU students. In addition, student usage statistics of the current recreational facilities clearly demonstrate the growing demand for these types of facilities at USU. For example, the Nelson Field House has seen its student usage increase by 71% from 2008 to 2011.

The Aggie Recreation Center will address the recreational needs of Logan Campus students including: open recreation use, intramural sports, club sports, non-credit bearing fitness and wellness classes, campus organizations, university special events, and general student use through a coordinated and structured use policy. The center enhances the sense of community for students on the Logan Campus and provides expanded opportunities for student recreation and engagement. This new facility supports USU’s new student recruitment outcomes and contributes to higher retention and graduation rates.

With the opening of the Aggie Recreation Center in November 2015, there has been significant growth of physical activity among the student population. Before the building was completed, the department averaged 17% of the on campus student population using our facilities. With the new building, that number has increased to 25% and that usage level has been maintained year-round.   

Unique Aesthetic or Architectural Design Features

Located in one of America’s most beautiful settings, Utah State University’s Aggie Recreation Center has been designed to rival the majesty of the surrounding Wasatch Range. The design balances an open and lofty interior with the grounded nature of the site on campus, at the mouth of Logan Canyon. As a fully student-funded project, the students were integral to the design process and vision. In turn, the building responds to the nearby canyons with building components arranged to evoke the experience of walking through a canyon. Throughout the building, the design keeps users visually connected to the outdoors. The architects incorporated a compression and release technique, with an entry resembling a canyon crevice that then opens to an expansive three-story entry atrium with glazing above. The exterior has a powerful massing, showcasing three levels of fitness space and a track through picture windows. The building’s exterior becomes lighter and more transparent as it increases in height, offering students stunning views of the landscape. Bold, award-winning graphics reinforce the design theme.

Facility Functionality

Form follows function at the Aggie Recreation Center. While the center is designed to celebrate and take advantage of the surrounding landscape, it is carefully planned for easy accessibility, convenient adjacencies and an efficient experience for students. Featuring three full-sized courts, a multi-activity court, an indoor running track, a climbing wall, a cardio loft, space for outdoor recreation programs, two group fitness studios, offices and a student lounge, the facility has diverse programmatic offerings within a flexible and streamlined space.

Relationship Between Facility Design and Staffing

The staffing of the Campus Recreation Department increased from 6 full time staff and 80 student staff to 14 full time staff and 210 student positions.

Innovative Construction Materials or Methods

The space includes a unique wood ceiling, mimicking the local canyon, in the main corridor made of Western Hemlock. The design team also repurposed an existing campus-owned yurt which had been in the mountains to create a screen wall separating the lounge and weight room and to create a chandelier. Canyon graphics complement local geography, with relevant local trail markers and topography showcased.

Sustainable/Green Features/LEED

The building achieved LEED-NC Gold certification and was designed to meet Utah’s High Performance Requirements. The design includes a 30% improvement over ASHRAE 90.1-2004 minimum requirements with particular features including massing and orientation of the building to take advantage of opportunities for daylight harvesting and views.  Strategic placement of high performance glazing, shading devices, deep roof overhangs and natural vegetation, partnered with lighting controls and other energy reduction measures provide a design that balances the energy performance goals of the client with programmatic needs desired by Campus Recreation and students.     

Use of Technology and How it Benefits Customer, Staff and or Budget

The building utilized Bio-metric hand scanners for facility access control. Utilizing this technology allows the university to keep real time data of students in the building while streamlining the check in process. All of the marketing in the building utilizes digital screens to streamline content.   

The university’s reporting is done digitally, utilizing different software programs for counts, inventory and memberships. By utilizing this software, the Campus Recreation Department is able to keep accurate counts and information on the use and effectiveness of programs as well as identifying times programming can be increased to make up for low times of use in the facility.

Floor Plans

The first floor includes the entry, three full-sized courts, the multi-purpose activity court, administrative space for student staff, a weight room, the check-in desk, locker rooms, a climbing wall, an outdoor recreational pursuits center and an injury prevention and care room.

The second floor includes the track, a cardio loft, professional staff administrative spaces, a classroom / multi-purpose room, a fitness studio and spin studio. The third level includes a cardio loft and a large group studio, overlooking the mountains.