March 4, 2019 | Jim Townsend
“If you build it, they will come” is a slightly altered line from the movie “Field of Dreams” that Brian Mills has thought since the opening of University of Houston-Clear Lake’s $38.2 million Recreation and Wellness Center in August 2018. Indeed, students, faculty and staff are using the facility’s state-of-the-art equipment. But Mills, director of campus recreation, has bigger plans.
Mills wants to make the center a community destination — where people from all walks of life come to have fun, feed their spirit, get healthier and learn how to stay that way.
He hopes to entice individuals and businesses to utilize state-of-the-art, constantly cleaned equipment with no initiation fees, no contracts, helpful and knowledgeable staff, a variety of fitness programs and recently lowered monthly fees.
Mills knows the recreation center has a lot of competition in Clear Lake and beyond. What gymnasiums don’t have is the center’s natural conduit to academic resources for fitness and wellness. For starters, UH-Clear Lake has an undergraduate fitness and human performance program, officially recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. It has a graduate program in Exercise and Health Sciences. Also, the Exercise and Nutritional Health Institute is co-located in the center.
“We didn’t spend this money to build a gymnasium,” Mills said. “We want people to get healthier. We want people to be happier. We want people to be excited to come here, because they’re not just showing up and getting on a treadmill for an hour. We want people to come here and say, ‘Let’s go have some fun at the rec center. Let’s go play basketball. Let’s take a group yoga class.’ We’ll find ways to make their engagement with us fun, insightful and, hopefully, sustainable. It’s not a workout. It’s a behavior change.”
Mills also hopes to forge relationships with health care professionals in the community who share his department’s holistic vision of health and well-being — personal trainers, coaches, licensed massage therapists, nutritionists, yoga instructors and others to complement fitness and recreational programs.
The key is strategic relationship-building, says Bryce Starr, who joined UHCL last October as coordinator of fitness and wellness. “We can have other community members come in and showcase their proficiencies in the areas that we aren’t proficient in, and create these relationships within the community.”
Starr is charged with mapping out the strategic growth of student and community programs, which includes anticipating the changing needs of a changing university and a changing community. In his vision, the recreation center will become an agent of those changes.
“Universities are meant to be transformative,” Starr said. “That’s what we stand for here, too. We want to be something that’s ever-changing. Transformational. We will constantly evolve based on the needs of our members, students, faculty and staff.”
Starr added, “We want to be that centralized station where people can come and have fun, learn, grow and gain knowledge. Even if it’s just one moment that changes someone’s day, it could change the course of their life. Those moments that make people feel welcome and safe, promote diversity and create a strong sense of community. We want to offer those moments, that wellness program, that fitness program. We want to grow those programs. And that takes time.”
In the meantime, the recreation center lowered monthly fees significantly, especially for community members, from $60 per month to $40 per month. Lifetime alumni members can join for $32.50 a month; non-lifetime alumni can join for $35 a month. UHCL employees and UHCL retirees pay only $32.50 per month. When they join, they can sponsor up to four others — family or friends — at the same rate.
The 81,709 square-foot Recreation and Wellness Center recently won an Outstanding Sports Facilities Award from the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, an organization that advocates the value of collegiate recreation in student success. The center features two regulation-sized basketball courts that include a retractable volleyball system, a multi-activity court for indoor soccer, floor hockey and other sports, a large weight and cardio room, Olympic free-weight zone, two multipurpose rooms for yoga and other group exercise, men’s and women’s locker rooms and a three-lane, 1/8th-mile elevated indoor running track. There are also three teaching labs for biomechanics, motor control and exercise physiology, classrooms and offices for faculty and staff.
Learn more about the Recreation and Wellness Center membership offerings online.