After spending five years under construction, the Wellness and Recreation Center (WRC) opened in the fall of 2020. Located across the street from Talley Student Union, the WRC hopes to serve as a center hub of all aspects of wellness through “unifying, celebrating, and inspiring active lifestyles of NC State students, faculty, and staff,” according to NC State's Wellness and Recreation website.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed several aspects of the WRC’s opening. The WRC and Carmichael Gym are currently following the NC Department of Health and Human Services Guide to Indoor Fitness as well as Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order 180. Both sets of guidelines outline safe ways to keep the facilities open, such as maximum occupancy limits and face-covering requirements.
Even while following strict guidelines, 2,500 students used the WRC in the last week of January, according to Will Craig, the assistant director of Wellness and Recreation. In previous years, Wellness and Recreation had 1,700-5,000 people visit during any given day, and there were almost 900,000 visits during the 2019-2020 school year.
“One of the Wellness and Recreation goals during the pandemic is to meet people where they are,” Craig said. “Some students may not feel comfortable coming into the gym, and that's OK. Wellness and Recreation offers 40 workout classes virtually every week, creating a virtual footprint, which is new to us.”
According to their website, the pandemic placed extra stress upon the proposed Wellness and Recreation budget. In the 2019-2020 school year, $6,650,000 of total expenses outweighed total revenues by about $134,000. The total revenue included facility and field rentals, aquatic facility rentals, associated revenues and marketing partnerships. Additionally, decreased student participation over the pandemic greatly impacted revenue.
“We are running on limited spending, so we are holding four positions vacant for the time being,” said Eric Hawkes, the executive director Wellness and Recreation. “Intramural sports are also operating under reduced programming so that we can try to limit expenses.”
Student participation isn’t as high as it normally would be, so the Wellness and Recreation team had to come up with fun and engaging ways to keep students interested in using their facilities or services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Wellness and Recreation has identified its core essential needs and is thinking outside the box to find new ways to keep students safely engaged while keeping costs as low as possible” Craig said.
Despite the challenges, Hawkes and Craig have an optimistic outlook of the pandemic’s impacts on Wellness and Recreation.
“The WRC is no ordinary gym,” Hawkes said. “It was built to be less intimidating and more inclusive through several different multipurpose areas as well as the fitness center and rock climbing walls. The WRC is a transformational space meant to bring financial aid, dining, staff from the Counseling Center and so many others to our space. Ultimately, the WRC will be a center hub of all aspects of wellness and will be more than just a gym.”