By Courtney Westlake
The day before the University of Illinois at Springfield’s new recreation and athletic center opened for the first time, its staff decided to take polls on the number of people they expected to come through.
“If it keeps up like it is, I think I might win,” laughed JT Timmons, director of recreational sports, who was excited on Tuesday morning not only because his prediction seemed to be on the mark but because the numbers were steady during the first few hours of the facility’s opening.
On Tuesday, September 18, the new recreation and athletic center (also known as the TRAC) opened its doors to the campus community after several years of planning. In 2003, students passed a referendum to build the new state-of-the-art center, Timmons said, and over the last several semesters, students have been paying a fee for the facility’s construction.
The recreation facility is part of the university’s strategic plan to create a more exciting campus for its students and employees. Timmons gives credit to the university administration for looking ahead to the mission of the university, which includes a component of wellness, recreation and athletics.
“To truly commit to that mission statement, such a facility was definitely needed on this campus,” he said, adding that there are two more phases for the center in the future. “There is tremendous growth going on, which further strengthens the need and support for a facility like this.”
Junior Erin Evangelista was one of the TRAC’s first users on its opening day. Evangelista, who is on the cheerleading squad for UIS, said she works out twice a day to get in shape for cheerleading season. She is impressed with the amenities the center has to offer, she said.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “There are a lot more machines, especially the adductor and abductor, which I love. And it’s brighter, which is what I really like when working out.”
The recreation and athletic center is located on the southern edge of campus, just west of Kiwanis Stadium. With 72,000 total square feet on two levels, students are able to enjoy three basketball and volleyball courts that can convert to a 3,000-seat performance arena, a running track, two racquetball courts, a large multi-purpose aerobics and exercise room, and cardiovascular and weight training areas.
Additionally, the TRAC’s gymnasium is now the new home to the Prairie Stars varsity men's and women's basketball teams and women's volleyball team. The volleyball team broke in the new gym its opening day with three matches throughout the afternoon and evening.
Although there were some delays with the recreation center, Timmons said that’s to be expected with a project of that size. Now that the facility is open for use, Timmons hopes students, faculty, staff and the public take advantage of the new machines, running track, gym and more.
“The response is hard to judge right now because the size of this facility is so much larger than the current Student Life Building center, but we've already seen an increase in memberships,” he said. “There is a lot more equipment in here; there are 17 TVs that are wired into cable. In general, I think people are really pleased with the aesthetics in here.”