HPER Center project begins fall 2013

Construction on the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Center expansion will begin following the spring semester after being passed in February of this year.

The HPER serves as a physical activity center for students and faculty. Boasting basketball courts, a cardio room and weight room among other features, the HPER is a feature that is enjoyed by many.

Dave Dennis, HPER center director said, the idea for expansion came from the Student Government Association.

“The 2010-2011 Student Government Association’s senior project was to expand,” Dennis said. “They felt the HPER needed additional space. SGA approved it.”

After SGA got the motion started, the expansion went to the UCA board of trustees.

On Feb. 24 the board of trustees passed a resolution to allow the expansion.

The resolution called for $15.5 million in bonds to finance the project.

The money will be used to expand the fitness building toward Farris Road. The new addition will consume some of the parking lot directly across from the Honors College dorms.

The current building provides roughly 80,000 square feet for usage. After completion, the building will grow to 120,000 square feet.

Additional exercise rooms, more weight room space along with lockers, a swimming pool, racquetball courts and student meeting spaces will be included in the expansion. An additional recreation pool was planned to go with the expansion, but Dennis said the budget wouldn’t allow it.

The current second-floor weight room at the HPER Center includes free weights, machines and cables along with exercise balls and mats.

Dennis said one of the goals of the expansion was to provide more room.

“The weight room will expand from 5,500 square feet to 9,500 square feet,” Dennis said. “The studio room will be moved to the weight room. There will also be outdoor bicycle equipment rentals by the racquetball courts.”

The Farris Center has the university’s only indoor pool.

After expansion, a pool nearly the same size as the Farris Center pool will be implemented. Dennis said the pool will be 25 yards long with six lanes and will include a diving board.

A climbing wall will also be placed in the pool area.

According to the university website, the board of trustees passed a $1.62 per credit hour HPER fee increase to go along with the bonds received for the expansion.

The 2010-2011 SGA approved the increase, as well.

The HPER Center’s current hours are 6:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Friday, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Saturday and 3:00 -11:00 p.m. Sunday.

Junior Cebron Hackett said he hopes new hours will be implemented along with the expansion.

“I work on the weekends, so the hours make it really hard for me to get a workout in,” Hackett said. “If the hours were made longer, I would definitely take advantage of them.”

Hackett said he uses the facility regularly and the expansion will make his time there even better.

“It’s really exciting to see the HPER expanding to accommodate how different people want to work out. The extra space is going to make it easier for everybody.”

Freshman Haley Turnage uses the HPER regularly and said it provides her all the tools she needs for an effective workout already, but adding to the current building is exciting.

“I think it’s fabulous,” she said. “It’s great that they’re expanding like that, because it gives it a lot more variety.”

Turnage said the availability of machines and areas is key to the new building.

“Sometimes, it can get crowded in there,” Turnage said. “It will be great to know that you’re most likely going to be able to do whatever you need to do and get it done quickly.”

Dennis said after the expansion, the hours will initially stay the same. However, Dennis said the goal is to increase the hours to midnight or 1 a.m.

Hackett said the later hours will help, but weekend hours are the main priority.

“A lot of people only get the chance to work out on weekends when they get a break from classes,” Hackett said. “The weekend hours really need to expand for it to be a big success.”

Dennis said the expansion will also call for an increase in student workers.

Workers are currently stationed at the front desk, in the cardio and weight rooms and others throughout the facility. With more area to cover, Dennis said more workers will be needed.

The facility will boast a new meeting area as well as foosball tables, pool tables and ping pong tables. Dennis said the entrance of the building will also expand, including a new lobby area.

Dennis said the university is looking at working with a “local group” in Little Rock as well as a group that specializes in recreational facilities.

Construction will likely last a full year, as Dennis said the new additions will most likely not be ready for use until October 2014.

Freshman Emily Harrison said she has only used the HPER Center a handful of times since coming to UCA.

Harrison said the addition of a pool and more exercise equipment would help increase her use of the facility.

“I just always worry about it being too crowded and not being able to get done what I want to,” Harrison said. “If it’s growing [that]much with a pool and more equipment, surely there will always be stuff available to use. I’m excited for it.”

The expansion may help change the minds of students who exercise elsewhere. Junior Wesley Locke, who currently works out at a monthly-membership gym, said more room and new equipment may bring him to use the HPER.

“I’ve gone to a different gym just because it has had more equipment than the HPER has,” Locke said. “If they have everything I need once it’s renovated, I’m all for saving some money every month and going there.”

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