An artist's rendering of the front exterior of the new Natatorium

Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center

About the Project

The new Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center will be the second building project of the Master Plan and the third project overall. Construction is currently underway and expected to complete in 2023.

In the Bakke (bah-kee) Center, Active Badgers can look forward to square footage for wellbeing services (including spaces to support mental health), a 25-yard recreational pool, 8 basketball courts, an ice sheet, expanded fitness areas, multipurpose studios, and an indoor jogging track. To build upon our inclusive design efforts at the Nicholas Recreation Center, we will continue to prioritize an easy-to-navigate, efficient, and flexible building. There will also be all-gender showers and locker areas to accommodate all members and visitors.

Compared to the Nicholas Recreation Center’s bustling downtown location, we are excited for the unique opportunities this project presents, namely its proximity to Lake Mendota and the Lakeshore Path. We look forward to presenting campus with a unique facility that fulfills the needs of current and future Badgers to come.

Want to see how we’re progressing? Click the button below for a bird’s eye view of the construction site. 

Check on construction

Leave a Legacy

None of our building projects would be possible without the immense generosity of our friends and supporters. A donation to the new Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center will help us better support Badgers’ mental and physical health while shaping the future of recreation on campus for generations to come.

Learn more about gift opportunities

Budget & Timeline


Student segregated fees $76.6 million
Gifts $33.6 million
Recreation & Wellbeing Total $110.2 million
School of Education* $3 million
Total Project Budget $113.2 million 

*For Adapted Fitness program


Architect/Engineer selection Completed April 2019
Design report April 2020
SBC/BOR approval June 2020
Bid date Fall 2020
Abatement, decommission, demolition Fall 2020
Start construction Spring 2021
Project closeout Spring 2023

What to Expect

Original Natatorium Updated Natatorium* New Natatorium**
Fitness space (sq. ft.) 5,353 11,028 29,000+
Courts 8 7 8
Ice rink No No Yes
Pool 8-lane, 25-yard competition
pool and diving well
8-lane, 25-yard competition
pool and diving well
8-lane, 25-yard recreational
Wellbeing Services No No Yes, 4,300 sq. ft
Indoor jogging track No No Yes, 3 lanes, totaling
1/8 to 1/5 of a mile
Multipurpose rooms 0 1 5
Performance Training Center No Yes Yes
Teaching Kitchen No No Yes
Sport Simulators No No Yes

*In order to account for the closure of the Southeast Recreational Facility (SERF) in August 2017, we made several changes to the Natatorium to increase overall fitness space and usability for our students and members.

**Specs are based on initial design work and may change throughout the planning process based on facility efficiency and programming needs.


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What is the construction timeline?

The current Natatorium is expected to close in fall 2020 for demolition and construction. The new Natatorium is scheduled to open in 2023. This timeline is subject to change and will be updated when new information is available.

Where can I work out while the building is under construction?

Members are welcome to visit the Nicholas Recreation Center (expected to open the latter part of 2020), Shell, and Nielsen Tennis Stadium while the Natatorium is under construction.

Will there be a satellite workout space added on the lakeshore side of campus?

We have been working with University Housing to secure Holt Commons as a satellite workout space. We will update this page when more details are confirmed.

How have students been involved in designing the facility?

There are two UW-Madison students who represent Recreation & Wellbeing on the core design team (made up of full-time Rec Well staff, representatives from campus and the state, and the A/E team). Additionally, we have been using feedback from small group conversations we’ve had with various student organizations and a campus-wide survey that was sent in spring 2019. We received 1,200+ survey responses from students outlining what they’d like included in the new facility. Lastly, we continue to work closely with ASM and other student organizations to solicit feedback.

What's going to happen to the Shell?

When the new Natatorium opens, the Shell will be transferred back to UW Athletics and will no longer be a Rec Well facility. We are working to recreate features from the Shell in the new Nat, including the indoor track and ice rink.

Where will the Kinesiology department go during construction?

The Kinesiology department is expected to relocate to the Medical Sciences Center at the end of Summer 2020.

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What will happen to my Rec Well membership?

Your membership with Rec Well will remain valid and continue through its current term while the Natatorium is closed. Rec Well Affiliate Memberships may be used at all facilities. Members are welcome to visit the Nicholas Recreation Center, Shell, and Nielsen Tennis Stadium.

How long will student segregated fees fund this project?

Campus will use 20-year bonds to pay for Master Plan projects. Once the 20-year bond is paid, student segregated fees are expected to reduce respectively.

Where will I play intramural sports?

The Nicholas Recreation Center and Shell will house indoor intramural sports. Outdoor intramural sports will continue to be played at Cole Recreation Area, Near East Fields, and Near West Fields (the first completed project of the Master Plan).

Where will group fitness classes be held?

Group fitness classes will be held in the five multipurpose studios at the Nicholas Recreation Center.

Will there be a 200m track in the new Natatorium?

In this project, a 200m indoor track would require a large amount of additional space and infrastructure and would reduce design efficiency, making it cost-prohibitive. Due to excessive space needs, design challenges, and budget implications associated with a 200m track, a 3 lane recreational jogging track is planned in the designs.

Who are the project architects?

HOK and Kahler Slater. HOK was the lead firm behind the Nicholas Recreation Center design, and Kahler Slater worked with us in 2013 on the initial renderings of the Master Plan.