Nicholas Recreation Center opening delayed

A digital rendering of the Nicholas Recreation Center design.

Significant construction and weather challenges have led to a delayed opening of the Nicholas Recreation Center. While the facility was most recently expected to open in January 2020, the university recently learned that issues related to the pool tank, interior support structures, fire suppression, and utilities coordination are impacting the construction timeline. The facility’s east facade must remain open until several of these issues are resolved. Without full enclosure, HVAC systems cannot be initiated, resulting in the delayed installation of interior surfaces such as wood and rubber flooring in gymnasiums and fitness spaces, respectively.

Throughout the course of construction, the city experienced a 100-year flood in summer 2018 and a record-setting winter with extremely low temperatures in February 2019, both of which also contributed to the delay of the project.

As a result of these challenges, the Nicholas Recreation Center is not expected to open before the latter part of 2020.

“We understand the disparity between expectations and the reality of this timeline,” Interim Director of Rec Well, Mick Miyamoto, said. “We want to assure students and our members that we will continue to deliver outstanding services and programs in the meantime.  We are excited to share this incredible space with campus once it is complete.”

At more than 240,000 square feet, the Nicholas Recreation Center is a significant construction project, designed to provide space and services that support students’ wellbeing for the next half-century and beyond. Landlocked and bound on all sides by the Kohl Center, East Campus Mall, and Dayton Street, the project presented a unique opportunity to architects and engineers who worked to design a full-functioning recreation center and competition pool on a compact, urban site in downtown Madison. The facility is home to a 50-meter pool with separate diving well, 8 gymnasiums, multiple rooms for high-performance activity, more than 30,000 square feet designated for fitness activities, and more.

“Although this delay is not the news any of us were hoping to hear, we are intent on receiving a multi-generational facility that will meet this campus’s expectations for high-quality spaces,” Executive Director of Facility Planning & Delivery, Kip McMahan, said. “It is important that we ensure that the finished product is one that will serve our students and community for decades to come.”

The project is part of the Rec Well Master Plan that includes two indoor facilities and two outdoor field projects. The Nicholas Recreation Center was preceded by the Near West Fields project completed in summer 2017. The Master Plan is a project driven by and for students, approved in a 2014 referendum on the student government ballot.

Questions and inquiries about the project may be directed to Sadat Khan, associate director of member experience, at