As fall semester looms just around the corner, so does the reopening of the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. The recreation center is in the later stages of several major renovations and upgrades that have kept the building closed all summer. The upper level of the sports complex is scheduled to open by the first day of classes, Aug. 24. The lower level will remain under construction through Sept. 14.
Changes will be readily apparent to returning students. The vacated UAA Athletics offices on the second floor have transformed into a student fitness center and yoga studio. Large glass panels on either side of the fitness center offer gym users and passing students a view outside and more natural light. The fitness center will also have increased hours for students to use.
“For those of us who remember what (the fitness center) was like, they are going to be impressed,” said Recreational Department assistant director of programs Alan Piccard.
On the other end of the building, newly renovated offices for the Recreational Department will also be showcased with glass panels on one side.
Renovations to the downstairs will include an all-new hockey locker room and players’ lounge. Across the hall, the ice rink will be receiving an all new ice plant and set of dasher boards and glass. The ice plant will be placed in a protective structure on the exterior of the WFSC behind the Student Union as soon as it arrives to Anchorage. The rink will also have new LED lights that won’t produce as much heat as the old rink lighting. A heavy-lifting room open to all will replace the space the old hockey locker room once occupied.
As one might expect when remodeling a structure from the 1970s, some spaces posed rather complex design challenges. Kristin Reynolds, the lead project manager on the job, is proud of how the design team and contractors worked around these difficulties.
“It’s much more complex in the construction phase to do a remodel like this than it is to build a new building, when you can just say how big you want it,” Reynolds said. “It’s a little bit more engaging and it’s more challenging.”
One such challenge was the installation of a new air handler unit — a bulky piece of hardware that serves as the origin and terminal of all air ventilation in the building. The unit needed to be moved into the penthouse, an upper chamber of the WFSC between the gym and ice rink. Because the area didn’t offer a convenient entry point for it, the air-handler’s eight units had to be broken into four to six pieces each before being hoisted up from the gym floor and through a small square opening in the wall near the ceiling. Once the air handler pieces were in the penthouse, they could be reassembled. The new air handler unit is roughly twice the size of the old one.
Despite the lower level remaining closed through Sept. 14, the project’s timing couldn’t have worked out much better for students says Piccard.
“The timing was done I mean about as perfectly as it could.”