Drexel University’s Recreation Center is celebrating its tenth birthday this month, and a special event was held Monday, Feb. 24 to honor the impact the center has created on campus.
The corner of 33rd and Market Street changed dramatically in February 2010 when the Recreation Center opened its doors to members of the Drexel and West Philadelphia community.
According to a February 2009 news release, the mission of Drexel’s Recreation Center has been “to provide a lasting and meaningful impact on the health and well-being of the entire University community.”
The revolutionary facility boasts a 13,000-square-foot, two-court multipurpose gym, an indoor walking and jogging track, 17,000-square-foot weight and fitness area, two squash courts, a rock climbing wall and two large-group exercise rooms.
Memberships are free for Drexel undergraduate students, and cost $28 for three months for graduate students. University employees, alumni and those in the West Philadelphia community can purchase memberships, as well. There are various payment plans, including weekly, every three months, every six months and annually.
The Recreation Center also hosts Free Fridays, where paying members can invite up to two guests free-of-charge. Guests are required to show their photo ID at the front desk. Free Fridays run on the first Friday of every month. Members can bring guests for $15 on other days.
The “Drexel Recreation Center Turns 10” event ran all day Feb. 24. Attendees celebrated with free giveaways, raffles, a Zumba dance party and massages.
The state-of-the-art facility, which is now University City’s fitness hub, changed the appearance of the heart of Drexel’s campus. The lead architect was Sasaki, a design firm headquartered in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Sasaki’s striking design of the Recreation Center is often overlooked, but every decision made was intentional and purposeful, even down to the small details.
“The Recreation Center features an integral glass facade and roof light scoops that eliminate the use of electric lighting during the day in 87 percent of the interior occupied space,” according to the Recreation Center website.
The transparent nature of the Recreation Center was chosen for reasons far beyond the environmentally-friendly advantages. Windows allowing for lots of natural light and an open feel play an important role in the whole exercise experience, Director of Athletics and Carl R. Pacifico Professor of Neuropsychology Eric Zillmer told DrexelNOW.
“What I think Sasaki got totally right is the transparent nature of the building,” Zillmer said. “Whereas the ‘old’ [physical education and activity center] had no windows, the Recreation Center is all glass and transparent. As a sports psychologist, I believe that this adds to the idea that you’re working out collectively. This social dimension is something important to humans in terms of feeling part of a community or group.”
Lots of Drexel students, faculty and West Philadelphia community members get to experience the community aspect of the Recreation Center regularly. When classes are in session, over 3,000 students alone visit the facility, Zillmer said. Since its opening, there have been over 6.7 million visitors.
Zillmer told DrexelNOW that the Recreation Center is 87,000-square-feet, and during the initial planning process over 10 years ago, many people believed the facility would be far too big. But the regular turnout proves otherwise.
The long list of features offered at the Recreation Center was almost cut short during construction, Zillmer said. The initial budget for the project was $44 million, but all of the “bells and whistles” demanded another $3 million.
“I also remember we never had enough money [during construction],” Zillmer said. “The squash courts that are near the entrance were [going] to be a pit, the running track was out. And then I learned where the term ‘cutting corners’ came from, when I saw a plan where the climbing wall … had been deleted.”
Funds to finish the Recreation Center project as planned came from the Athletics Department, former Vice President of Student Life and Administrative Services Tony Caneris, former President Constantine “Taki” Papadakis and former student government president Chris Duffy.
Perhaps the most interesting feature, made possible by the donated funds, is the connection between the Recreation Center’s ellipticals and the building’s power grid, according to the Recreation Center website. As you work out on the ellipticals, you are actually generating power for the facility, too.