Temporary Palmer recreation facility to open in January

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A temporary building scheduled to open in January on U-M’s Central Campus will give members of the campus community a place to build muscle and burn calories while a new recreation center is built nearby.

The 23,000-square-foot Palmer Field Temporary Recreation Facility will have cardio equipment, strength training machines, a track and other amenities.

The facility was designed to support campus recreation needs during the demolition of the Central Campus Recreation Building and the construction of its replacement, according to Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon.

“Many of our U-M community members, past and present, have used the CCRB as a place to find belonging and build connection in addition to staying active, so we look forward to opening the doors to our temporary facility; it will ensure that such an important community space in that part of campus remains convenient and accessible to all,” he said.  

Construction on the 23,000-square-foot Palmer Field Temporary Recreation Facility has been ongoing since the summer and is expected to wrap up in January when the facility opens for use. It will have cardio equipment, strength training machines, a track and other amenities to provide students with a place to exercise while a new recreation center is built nearby. (Mike Widen, Recreational Sports)
Construction on the 23,000-square-foot Palmer Field Temporary Recreation Facility has been ongoing since the summer and is expected to wrap up in January when the facility opens for use. It will have cardio equipment, strength training machines, a track and other amenities to provide students with a place to exercise while a new recreation center is built nearby. (Mike Widen, Recreational Sports)

Workers began building the temporary fabric-and-metal structure on the north end of Palmer Field over the summer. The Board of Regents approved the $9.5 million project last spring.

The facility will have 57 cardio stations, 42 free weight stations, 30 selectorized strength stations, a room for fitness classes and a two-lane running and walking track. 

There will also be single-stall restrooms, single-stall shower rooms and 348 lockers for daily use. And while the building doesn’t have windows, it will be heated and air-conditioned.

The facility will be open to all U-M students and Recreational Sports members.

Mike Widen, director of Recreational Sports, said university officials felt strongly about making sure students didn’t lose access to indoor recreation activities on Central Campus during the estimated 2½-year CCRB project.

“The use of Recreational Sports facilities is such a primary component of the student experience,” he said.

The CCRB, which is located at 401 Washtenaw Ave. and draws between 1,500 and 1,800 students every day, will close Dec. 9. It is the largest of the university’s three comprehensive recreational sports facilities.

Widen said while the temporary facility couldn’t replicate every feature of the CCRB because of its smaller size, it will feature the two things that are most popular with students: cardio and strength equipment. 

“There’s never been a more critical time to invest in student health and well-being,” he said, noting that studies have shown a correlation between physical and mental health.

The CCRB is made up of several structures that were built between 1956 and 1978. In 2018, the Board of Regents voted to replace the facility after it was determined that various structural issues made reusing it unfeasible.

The project was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then in March 2022, the board approved a schematic design and a revised project budget of $165 million, and also authorized construction to proceed.

Demolition of the CCRB is scheduled to begin in January.

The new CCRB will be built on the same site. It will be approximately 200,000 square feet and have modern gymnasium courts, a track for jogging and walking, spaces for strength and cardiovascular training, group exercise rooms, aquatic areas, a climbing wall, squash and racquetball courts, locker rooms and support and administration spaces. It is expected to open in fall 2025.

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