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Half Acre to Open to Campus Monday

March 13, 2015
two women posing as if climbing rock climbing wall
UW students Nandini Rajashanmugam of St. Louis, Mo.; and Ashley Smalstig of Green River check out the 38-foot-high rock climbing and bouldering wall in the new Phase I addition of Half Acre, which opens Monday. Both students are Half Acre employees. (UW Photo)

After numerous months of anticipation -- and a healthy dose of patience -- Phase I of the University of Wyoming Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center renovation/addition is set to open to campus Monday, March 16, at 6 a.m.

Beginning that day, users will have to enter a new entrance on the south side of the facility to gain access to all of the new equipment and amenities.

These include: three floors of new weight room and cardio equipment; a 38-foot-high rock climbing and bouldering wall; a multi-activity court (MAC) that can be used for a variety of intramural, club and recreational sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer and badminton; a spinning room with audiovisual projection screens; a dance studio; a “mind and body” studio for meditation/yoga; academic space for theater and dance, and kinesiology and health classes; four new racquetball courts with glass back walls for observation and instruction (one court can be converted to a squash court); expanded Outdoor Program space and new locker rooms; and express lockers spread conveniently throughout the building.

“We are transforming a historic, iconic 1920s building into a state-of-the-art, modern recreation and wellness center,” says Pat Moran, director of Half Acre.

A “hard opening” of Half Acre is scheduled Monday, March 23, when classes resume after the university’s spring break concludes, says Ken Jones, capital projects manager for UW’s Facilities Planning.

Jones points out the use of rough-cut and smooth sandstone material on the exterior elevations of the building to keep with the original 1925 building’s historical tradition, where the new entrance is located.

“We’re very cognizant at Facilities Planning of the desire of the university to maintain its architectural character,” Jones says. “Hopefully, the efforts of the planning and construction teams ended up crafting a facility that respects and identifies the historic, and merges it with the modern building.”

The new locker rooms provide more locker space and benches than before as well as large individual shower stalls for privacy. The women’s locker room includes private changing rooms. The second and third man looking at big screen television mounted on wallfloors each include four individual restrooms.

“The new facility was designed to provide increased privacy and accessibility throughout the building,” Moran says.

Half Acre is home to Campus Recreation, which includes club and intramural sports, open recreation, group fitness, aquatics, wellness and the Outdoor Program. The facility, which hosts academic courses in areas such as kinesiology and health, and theater and dance, is used regularly by a variety of departments and groups.

The $27 million construction project began in spring 2013. The Wyoming State Legislature appropriated $15 million for the work, and $12 million in bond sale proceeds will be repaid by student fees. The Associated Students of UW backed the fee increase and lobbied the Legislature to support the project.

The entire plan for Half Acre, which includes an upcoming Phase II, includes remodeling the facility’s historic west portion. Phase II, which will include lengthening the existing third-floor track to 1/8 of a mile, the addition of a wellness center, and renovation of the swimming pool, is expected to be completed in late summer.

Punch-list items, building technology and transitional work related to Phase II will continue after the Phase I portion is occupied and in use. Users are asked to observe temporary barricades, cautionary signage or other posted instructions in areas where work will continue in the Phase I area.

Groathouse Construction of Laramie received the contract for the major renovation and expansion of the facility. The architect/engineering firm of Tobin & Associates of Cheyenne, in association with Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative of Denver, designed the improvements.

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