Proposed rec center will be ‘coolest and healthiest place on campus’

Conceptual renderings of rec center

Pitt has released some of the first design concepts for the new Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, a roughly 270,000-square-foot facility planned at the site of the former O’Hara Garage and LRDC building.

“This project began with listening to students, and their voices were loud and clear,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in Pittwire. “They wanted better recreational opportunities and experiences at Pitt. From day one, we’ve made it a priority to engage students as true partners in planning the center and bringing our shared vision to life.”

An advisory board was formed in 2019 to offer students from across campus and from different disciplines a platform to contribute insights during the early phases of the center's development.

Anastasia Dubnicay, the project manager in Pitt’s Office of Facilities Management overseeing the center’s development and construction, said the student input was invaluable.

“Sitting down, talking with the students, asking them their thoughts, brought up inclusivity aspects and needs at current facilities that we didn’t know about,” Dubnicay said. Faculty and staff also are involved in advisory panels.

The bulk of the cost of the center will be covered by student health and wellness fees. But the goal is to have faculty and staff join with a membership fee, which is still being studied, according to David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business & operations.

“The reason it’ll be open on a membership basis is that if the students are paying for access and use, we feel, from an equity standpoint, we’ll be doing that for faculty and staff as well,” DeJong said at the Oct. 18 Plant Utilization and Planning committee meeting.

Construction is scheduled to start in summer 2022 and be completed by fall 2024. The sidewalk on O’Hara Street in front of the O’Hara Garage and LRDC will remain closed and fenced off until the center is complete.

The design plans for the multi-story facility, which will go up the hillside and connect to upper campus, include:

  • Recreation pool

  • Jogging track

  • Weight-lifting equipment

  • Multi-activity courts for basketball, volleyball and other activities

  • Dining options

“Our vision for the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center is that it will be a transformative space in the heart of campus that serves as the intersection of well-being for the Pitt community,” said Kenyon Bonner, vice provost for Student Affairs. “Put another way, our vision is to create the newest, coolest and healthiest place on campus.”

Renderings of outside of rec center

“It’s the centerpiece of the University’s campus master plan,” said Scott Bernotas, vice chancellor of Facilities Management. “From a legacy perspective, the center will be another postcard landmark for the University; the Cathedral of Learning will always be the first, but the second will feature this hillside destination.”

The new facility will seek LEED certification and is expected to include ample natural light and energy efficiencies, sustainable stormwater management and biophilic design elements, which all support Pitt’s commitment to sustainability.

A planned reconfiguration of University Drive will create a more pedestrian-friendly and sustainable hillside while providing more convenient access to upper campus and the new rec  center.

In addition to being the largest recreation and wellness center in Pitt’s history, this will be the first to adopt a holistic approach to supporting overall student health and wellness.

“The world is a complex, stressful place, and this will be the space for students to physically and mentally stay grounded and de-stress in healthy ways,” said Mary Beth McGrew, associate vice chancellor in the Office of Planning, Design and Real Estate.

“It’s a different kind of center because of the transitions and the topography of this area,” she said. However, building into the hillside will enable “opportunities to fully integrate the hillside and outdoors as part of the overall development plan.” The area surrounding the center will include native plants, dedicated pathways and boast outdoor spaces that are natural extensions of the facility.

Learn more and get project updates.