A digital rendering of the Nicholas Recreation Center

Nicholas Recreation Center

In the fall of 2017, the Southeast Recreational Facility closed to begin demolition and construction of a new recreation facility, the Nicholas Recreation Center. The Nick will be the first major building project of the Master Plan and the second overall project after the Near West Fields. The name of the facility honors the late Albert “Ab” Nicholas, his wife Nancy, and the Nicholas family.

The Nick is expected to open in 2020.

View construction livestream 

What to Expect

SERF  The Nick
Usable square footage 124,000 170,145
Gross square footage 192,170 240,560
Fitness square footage 8,500 30,400
Full-size basketball courts 4 8
Fitness studios/multipurpose studios  1 (4,600 sq. ft.) 5 (12,575 sq. ft.)
Pool short course lanes (maximum) 16 27
Diving well No Yes
Pool spectator seating None 1,000


  • 5 levels of activity space, all with abundant natural light
  • 30,400 square feet dedicated to cardio and strength fitness spaces
  • 8 full size basketball courts for multiple activities, including basketball, volleyball, badminton, futsal, and special events
  • 5 multi-purpose studios to use for group fitness, indoor cycling, small group training programs, sport club practices, and student organizations
  • Functional training sprint ramp leading up to a suspended threelane indoor track measuring one-sixth of a mile
  • More than 300 day-use lockers throughout activity spaces with built-in locks to secure personal belongings and prevent theft
  • Dedicated personal training suite for assessments and private consultations
  • Multiple open areas throughout the facility to allow for stretching, core work, and functional training
  • 2 racquetball courts
  • Dedicated cycle room with theater-style audio, visual, and enhanced lighting
  • 50-meter pool (convertible to two 25-yard pools) featuring 27 total possible short course lanes and 25-yard diving well
  • Future home for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Swimming and Diving teams
  • ADA accessible pool with operable pool floor allowing for zero-depth entry, shallow-water training, and competition lap swimming
  • Private shower stalls in both men’s and women’s locker rooms
  • All-gender and single-use bathrooms and showers
  • Bathrooms on every level of the facility
  • Fully ADA-accessible spaces, providing fitness opportunities for all users
  • Multiple views within the facility of signature landmarks in Madison, including the State Capitol and Lake Mendota

About the Project

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< class="uw-accordion-header"> Why is the SERF being replaced before the Nat?

Knowing that the southeast neighborhood is the population center for UW-Madison, students overwhelmingly requested that the SERF be the priority for revamping the recreational future for campus. Once the new facility is completed, it will provide a much larger presence on the southeast side to accommodate the ever-increasing number of students and residence halls while construction of the new “Nat” facility begins. Additionally, University of Wisconsin Swimming and Diving competitions are currently hosted at the Nat, which will need to continue throughout the construction of the Nicholas Recreation center. Once the Nicholas Recreation Center is constructed, it will house the new home for Wisconsin Swimming and Diving. Once the new Nat is built, the pool at that location will support more recreational activities for our everyday users. Kinesiology is an important partner and tenant in the current Nat facility. Planning for the new Nat will take more time to finalize staffing plans and changes to classroom locations while the Nat is down. The Nicholas Recreation center will be able to provide some overflow spaces for the Kinesiology department to hopefully reduce some of that compression.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> What is the construction timeline for the Nicholas Recreation Center?

The demolition of the current SERF and the construction of the Nicholas Recreation Center is expected to take approximately two years to complete. Demolition began at the end of the fall 2017 semester and the facility is expected to open in 2020. This timeline is subject to change, and will be updated when new information is available.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> How long will student segregated fees fund this project?

Campus will use 30-year bonds to pay for Master Plan projects. Once the 30-year bond is paid, student segregated fees are expected to reduce respectively.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> Is UW Athletics involved in this project?

Yes. UW Athletics is funding half ($13 million) of the costs to build a brand new Aquatic Center within the Nicholas Recreation Center project, which will be the eventual home of Wisconsin Swimming and Diving. This state-of-the-art facility will include a diving well with a 10-meter diving platform, an operable pool floor, 29 short course lanes, and spectator seating. Once completed, the new “Nat” will no longer host swimming and diving competitions for Wisconsin Athletics.

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< class="uw-accordion-header"> What can we expect for pool hours at the Nat?

While the Nicholas Recreation Center project is underway, the Nat Pool will accommodate Rec Sports programming and open rec swim, Wisconsin Swimming and Diving team practices and competitions, and Department of Kinesiology classes. Open rec swim times are expected to be scheduled as follows, but are subject to change:

Mondays  11am – 2pm, 5pm- 9pm
Tuesdays 11am – 2pm, 5pm – 9pm
Wednesdays 7am – 9am, 11am-2pm, 5pm- 9pm
Thursdays 11am – 2pm, 5pm-9pm
Fridays 7am – 9am, 11am – 2pm, 5pm-9pm
Saturdays 11am – 8pm
Sundays 11am – 8pm
< class="uw-accordion-header"> Where will I play intramural sports?

The Shell and Nat will house indoor intramural sports, and the Near West Fields will host our outdoor intramural sports. These fields feature a state-of-the-art synthetic turf system that will be playable during the majority of the year without concern of rain, mud, or flooding.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> Where will group fitness classes be held?

Group fitness classes will be held at the Nat. A complete Group Fitness schedule will be published online throughout the year. You may also find additional group fitness classes at various locations around campus, so be sure to follow us on social media for more details.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> Will parking be impacted during construction?

Yes. During the construction of the Nicholas Recreation Center, Lot 87 will be closed as part of the construction site. Please visit UW Transportation Services for updates and impacts to permits, guest, and service vehicle parking options.

Timeline FAQs

We announced a delay to the Nicholas Recreation Center construction timeline on Wednesday, October 30.


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< class="uw-accordion-header"> What is the new timeline for the Nicholas Recreation Center?

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

< class="uw-accordion-header"> What caused the delay?

Several factors have contributed to the delay of the Nicholas Recreation Center project, including issues related to the pool tank, interior support structures, fire suppression, and utilities coordination. The city also experienced a 100-year flood in summer 2018 and a record-setting winter with extremely low temperatures in February 2019, both of which added to the project’s delay.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> Why hasn’t the building been closed in on the east side?

The building’s east façade must remain open in order to address some of the construction challenges noted above. The east side of the building will be enclosed once these issues have been resolved.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> Can work continue in other areas of the Nicholas Recreation Center while the noted challenges are addressed?

Construction and installations have progressed in many areas of the Nicholas Recreation Center. Full enclosure of the building is required to initiate HVAC systems and install flooring in the gyms and fitness spaces.  Fire egress must also be operational on the east side prior to facility occupancy.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> How does the delay impact the total cost of the facility?

At this time, there is no expected impact to the construction budget as a result of the delayed timeline.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> I’m a currently enrolled student. How does the delay affect my segregated fees?

There will be no changes in students’ segregated fees as a result of the construction delay. In 2014, students approved a total segregated fee increase of $108 per semester to fund 57% of the master plan projects. University Recreation & Wellbeing is committed to delivering four facilities to campus that meet the budget criteria voted on by students.

< class="uw-accordion-header"> I’m a non-student member. What happens to my membership cost?

The cost of memberships for non-student members will not be affected by the delayed timeline. Non-student members who would like to access the Nicholas Recreation Center after it is open will experience an increase in membership cost, per the email communications that were sent out in July 2019. More information about memberships can be found here.