Closing in on 6 million visits, the Wildcat Recreation Center (WREC) is celebrating yet another milestone: its 10-year-anniversary.
Built in 2009, the WREC was imagined as a state-of-the-art fitness and wellness center, designed to provide Wildcat students with a safe and accessible place to exercise, socialize, and address their physical and mental well-being. Since its opening a decade ago, the WREC has stood as a vital free resource for Chico State students, as well as for University employees who can enroll as members for a modest fee.
“Students across the board say the WREC is a big part of why they choose to come here,” said Programs and Aquatics Manager Nancy Mantle (Information and Communication Studies, ’80), one of many employees who have been on staff for the last decade. “All the feedback we get from students is that it’s made a positive impact on their lives, and we see it every day as they make time to be here.”
The WREC kicked off the anniversary festivities last weekend with a student employee alumni gathering that attracted more than 70 guests. On Thursday, October 10, the Associated Students will open the celebration to the entire campus community from 10–11:30 a.m., where participants are encouraged to bring an item for the Hungry Wildcats Food Pantry.
Drawing nearly 2,500 visitors daily, the WREC is the student focal point for exercise and recreation on campus. Modern basketball and indoor soccer courts, weightlifting equipment, yoga and spin spaces, a lap pool, a climbing gym, and more offer Wildcats a place to play, join in some intramural sports, or just blow off some steam. From SCUBA lessons and standup paddleboard classes to Walktober step challenges and its Workout of the Week videos, the WREC hopes it truly has something to offer everyone.
“When I came and visited, I saw how nice it was and all the classes you could take, and I really liked that,” said Kasane Mounce, a first-year communication sciences and disorders major. “We have our dance team practices there, and I take spin and yoga and run on the track all the time. It’s a great thing to have right on campus.”
The WREC reports that, since its opening, first-year student users show higher retention rates and higher GPAs. And as the campus conversation around health and wellness expands, so too has the center’s programming, as it strives to support students’ academic success with a healthy outlet proven to address anxiety, stress, and lack of sleep.
“The WREC is one of many campus partners trying to move the wellness needle for our students,” said WREC Director Curtis Sicheneder, pointing out other programs beyond typical fitness offerings, such as pre-finals “De-Stress Fest” and “Wags and Whiskers,” a program for students to interact with therapy dogs. “The WREC has a big impact on student life.”
As the years have passed, the WREC has continued to evolve to meet user needs, such as incorporating more privacy stalls in the locker rooms, removing TV monitors from cardio equipment because students prefer to watch content on their phones, and installing a personal training studio at the entrance that offers one-on-one services. In serving students, the WREC will only continue to adapt.
“The thing I am most proud of, in addition to offering fitness and recreation opportunities, is we are 100 percent a recruitment and retention tool,” said Sicheneder, who started with the WREC in 2009 as its assistant director of facilities and operations. “I can’t tell you the number of times we have heard a potential student talking to mom and dad say, ‘I have just decided where I am going to go to school.’”
More than half of its users visit at least twice weekly, and the WREC also employs about 180 students. Its role as a major campus employer extends beyond the student population, too. Teresa Clements (Journalism, ’89) had spent years in her previous role as sports information director and loved the work she was doing there, but jumped at the chance to be involved with the WREC when it opened in 2009.
Now the WREC’s assistant director, she supervises about a third of its employees.
“It took a lot to pull me from Athletics, but the opportunity of what we were creating here on this campus, something that had never been done before, was too good to pass up,” Clements said. “This is just a whole new world. Our purpose here is to develop students into good people, and wellness and well-being is such a big piece of that. It’s a great place to teach community, to develop bonds with people, to get active and find some camaraderie—those are things that help keep you in school. I love that we get to support students in here in so many ways.”
“I love the WREC,” said junior psychology major Lacey Taylor. “It motivates people to be healthy, to go and work out, and it’s a really welcoming atmosphere.”
A LEED Gold Certified building, the WREC is also one of Chico State’s notable sustainable facilities. In addition to many other details, the pool is heated in large part by solar power, the wood on the basketball courts and exercise rooms were sustainably harvested, and the walls are insulated with material from old blue jeans and recycled newspaper.
The nod to sustainability was taken a step farther this spring, when flooding wrecked the basketball court floors. The wood was salvaged and turned into dozens of cornhole board sets, which will be on display during this week’s anniversary celebration and available as prizes for students. Those boards are ultimately meant for an October 25 event on Yolo Field, where the WREC will attempt to break a world record for most people playing cornhole simultaneously.