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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. Read more about their generous donation here. With the construction of the Nicholas Recreation Center scheduled to complete in 2020, we’re not just building a gym. We’re building the future of recreation and wellness at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We’re building a campus hub that will better serve our students and members now, and for 50 years to come. Our vision for the the Nick is a recreation experience that inspires our students, members, and the community to Play Hard. Get Fit. Live Well.

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Virtual Walkthrough


Budget & Timeline


Student Segregated Fees $42 million
Rec Sports Gifts $29 million
Rec Sports Program Revenue $3.5 million
Athletic Gifts $13 million
Total $87.5 million 

* The Master Plan will increase student segregated fees $108 through fiscal year 2022 (approved through the 2014 referendum vote).

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Construction of the Nicholas Recreation Center began in the fall of 2017. Click the button to see what we’ve accomplished so far and what we still have to do. For a snapshot of what we’re currently working on, check the graphic below!

Facility Features

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 29
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 29 total possible short course lanes and 25-yard diving well
  • Future home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Swimming and Diving teams’ practices and competitions with 1,000 spectator seats in the Aquatic Center
  • 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

Transition Plan

We understand that taking the SERF offline displaces a large portion of our members. It is our priority to continue providing fitness opportunities for you throughout construction. We have identified alternative workout locations and have created additional fitness space in our current facilities to best serve you.

  • The Phillips Lounge at Ogg Residence Hall, located just west of the SERF on Dayton Street, was converted to the Ogg Hall Fitness Center in August 2017
  • The Ogg Hall Fitness Center is available to all Rec Sports members and enrolled UW-Madison students for fitness-related activities during the Nicholas Recreation Center construction
  • The Ogg Hall Fitness Center is home to fitness and cardio equipment that was held at the SERF and offers more fitness square footage than was available at the SERF
  • The former cardio room now houses strength training equipment only. This conversion created the single largest weight room within Rec Sports facilities until the Nicholas Recreation Center opens.
  • One of the courts in Gym 4 has been converted to the Cardio Court, a space for cardio equipment, selectorized functional training equipment, and circuit workouts.
  • Open swim times at the Nat Pool have been expanded to keep up with needs for our dedicated swimmers.
  • Nat weekend hours will expand to open at 9am on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • The Nat will expand its fall hours to stay open on all home football Saturdays.
  • Cardio and strength equipment from the existing SERF has replaced equipment currently at the Shell.
  • Intramural Sports will utilize the Shell basketball courts.
  • Shell hours between Sunday – Thursday will expand, closing at midnight.
  • Shell summer hours will expand to weekends, remaining open from 10am – 8pm.


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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.

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 construction is expected to complete by early 2020. This timeline is subject to change, and will be updated when new information is available.

When will the existing SERF close?

The SERF closed on August 18, 2017.

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.

What will happen with my current SERF locker?

All current SERF locker holders will be contacted via email by our Member Services staff with available options to extend their locker end date. A special pricing structure will begin on February 1, 2017 providing SERF locker holders with discounted rates and the opportunity to extend their locker terms through July 31, 2017. All SERF lockers terms are expected to end no later than July 31, 2017 in order to prepare for the closure of the SERF.

When will locker rental service end?

All SERF lockers are expected to expire no later than July 31, 2017 and all current renters will be expected to vacate their lockers at that time. Additional instructions will be sent to current renters as the expiration date gets closer.

What will happen to my Rec Sports membership?

Your membership with Rec Sports will remain valid and continue through its current term while the SERF is closed. Rec Sports Affiliate Memberships may be used at all our facilities. Members are welcome to visit the Nat, Shell, Nielsen Tennis Stadium, and Ogg Fitness Center.

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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

Will Masters Swimming be held at the Nat pool?

Due to a compressed schedule, we have prioritized open rec swim times to accommodate as many swimmers as possible. We expect Masters Swimming to return once the Nicholas Recreation Center opens.

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.

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.

Is Wisconsin Intercollegiate 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.

Will parking be impacted during the construction of the Nicholas Recreation Center?

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.


For more information, please contact John Horn, Director of the Division of Recreational Sports, at