Rec Hall Taj Mahal
The University of South Alabama’s new recreation center is a pleasure dome of fitness, including a rock climbers’ wall that’s also a spectator sport.
Photos by John Adams
QUICK PROJECT FACTS
Project Name: University of South Alabama Student Recreation Center
Project Construction Value: $32 million
General Contractor: White-Spunner Construction Inc., Mobile
Architect: WHLC Architecture & Interiors, Fairhope.
Engineers: HM Young & Associates, Mobile (mechanical and electrical); Hutchinson, Moore & Rauch, Daphne (civil); MBA Structural Engineering Inc., Birmingham (structural); Counsilman-Hunsaker, St. Louis (aquatics); Watkins Acy Strunk Design Inc., Gulf Shores (landscape architect)
Major Subcontractors: Gulf Electric Co. Inc., Mobile (electrical); Batchelor’s Mechanical, Comfort Systems Southeast, Loxley (plumbing and mechanical); Cox Pools Southeast, Mobile (aquatics); Pitman Glass Co., Memphis (storefront and curtain wall windows); E. Cornell Malone Roofing, Pensacola (roofing); Sanders Hyland Corp., Mobile (flooring); Quality Coatings and Drywall, Daphne (framing, drywall and painting)
From the elliptical dome covering an elevated running track and free-weight gym to the outdoor pool so popular students climbed the fence to reach it, the 117,000-square-foot University of South Alabama Student Recreation Center was fun to build, challenging and unique, says White-Spunner Construction Project Manager Brandon Miller.
Highlighting the western entrance to the Mobile campus, the rec center was designed to be eye-catching, with unique shapes, walls of glass, cast stone and red brick (supplied by Mobile’s Riley Stuart Brick) all tied together with anodized aluminum metal panels.
The elliptical dome presented unique challenges, says Miller, adding that he doesn’t know of any other buildings in the area with a similar feature.
The metal panels also presented a challenge, he says, because they tied into soffit and fascia, also of metal panels, that had to be fabricated specially to meet the exact radiuses of the building.
Sports facilities include a tenth-mile track, four basketball courts, a combination basketball/dasherboard court used for indoor soccer and four indoor racquetball courts.
The building has one of the largest climbing walls in the Southeast—built by Eldorado Walls of Boulder, Colo.—and has a dedicated room with two glass curtain walls so spectators can watch climbers.
The building wraps around three sides of a courtyard that was specially designed so it wouldn’t disturb the eight century-old live oak trees growing nearby. While building a diamond pier foundation system for the courtyard deck—selected because of its minimal impact on the roots—White-Spunner’s full-time arborist kept close tabs on the trees, recommending compost and nutrients when needed and reminding the builders not to stack materials too close. How important was it to save the trees? “Some people said they went out and hugged them from time to time,” Miller quips.
The rec center has swimming facilities inside and out. A heated lap pool indoors gives serious swimmers a venue, while an outdoor recreation pool offers pool volleyball, pool basketball and a fountain system with jumping water and a hot tub.
That was so popular that White-Spunner had to go back after finishing the project and add a higher fence.
Another exterior water feature is the reflecting pond at the front of the building, highlighting a sculpture of two basketball players reaching for a jump ball.
Additional indoor facilities include a full cardio fitness area, spinning rooms, open rooms for group classes, such as yoga and zumba, and weight rooms.
There’s office space for the building itself and for the outdoor recreation department that arranges canoe, kayak and backpacking excursions. There’s also a juice bar in the new building.
Just a year old, the center is attracting 2,000 or more students every day, Miller says.
“It’s a unique building in itself,” Miller says. “It’s very cool looking from the outside and it serves its purpose well as a student rec center. There’s nothing more you could ask for from a student’s perspective who wants to go and have fun and exercise.”
Nedra Bloom is the copy editor of Business Alabama.