Wake Forest University Wellbeing Center Honored

Wake Forest University’s Wellbeing Center is the recipient of a NIRSA Outstanding Sports Facility Award. Each year NIRSA recognizes the innovative designs of new, renovated, or expanded collegiate recreational facilities of NIRSA Member Institutions. Winning facilities exemplify the institution’s commitment to providing the higher education experience desired and valued by students.

This past year Wake Forest completed a multi-phase transformation of their student recreation and wellness facilities.  Reynolds Gym is now home for expanded and renovated facilities serving Student Recreation and Wellness, Student Health Services, and Women’s Volleyball. With its 40,000 GSF expansion, and significant renovation, this prominent facility allows state-of-the-art programs to be organized with a high degree of transparency creating a visually dynamic experience throughout.


Project Background

Wake Forest University moved to its current campus in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1956. The Reynolds Gymnasium was one of the original buildings constructed on the new campus, but after half a century of use as the primary athletic and recreation facility, it needed significant renovation and renewal.

In 2008, Wake Forest engaged in the first of two studies to determine what the University community desired in a campus fitness and recreation facility.  That study included considering whether to renovate and expand Reynolds Gym or construct a new facility at a different location.  It was determined that the existing Reynolds Gym site was ideal, as it not only complimented the University’s campus master plan, but it is also equidistant between the two campus residential clusters.

In 2012, a second study was conducted by Brailsford & Dunlavey.  That study determined that:

  • The WFU community is extremely active with 82% of the campus population, including faculty & staff, engaging in physical activity at least once a week. This surpassed Wake’s peer institutions.
  • 143,000 gross square feet of indoor fitness and recreation space was needed. Further, the University only had 45% of indoor space needed to support both self-directed and scheduled fitness and recreation needs
  • Current conditions of the space negatively impacted both student and employee use of facilities. Over two-thirds of on-campus students believed WFU’s existing facilities were too crowded (86%) and uninviting (71%).
  • The highest identified need/priority was for additional cardio and weight equipment. The renovated facility offers over three times the amount of fitness equipment in six distinct areas.

In subsequent focus groups, students articulated a desire for the facility to be, “more than a gym.”  They expressed that they wanted the facility to be a destination serving as a campus hub for both social and recreational activities.  Students wanted lounge space with natural light, warm colors, comfortable furnishings, and other inviting features.

The newly rededicated Wake Forest Wellbeing Center has remained consistent with the campus master plan and responded to the campus communities needs as identified in both the 2008 & 2012 studies.

Project Impact

The Reynolds Gym transformation project was a three-phased project completed in March 2018.  Phase II was completed just prior to the 2017-18 academic year.  That fall semester, 85% of undergraduate students utilized Reynolds Gym facilities and services before the project was fully completed.  In the first year of Phase II completion, students and employees utilized the facility over 300,000 times.  (Wake Forest has an undergraduate enrollment of 5,100 students.)  Since project completion, Wake Forest has experienced increased in participation in all programmatic areas – intramural and club sports, group exercise, personal training, aquatics, and outdoor recreation.

Students desire for the facility to serve as the campus community center has also been realized.  The 3,000 square foot living room just off the main entry lobby is a popular hangout with its 2-story windows, fireplace, water wall, live plants, mechanical massage chairs, and comfortable furnishings.

The Wellbeing Center is a visible affirmation of the University’s commitment to the wellbeing of all members of the campus community.  Wake Forest provides employees complimentary membership to the facility as part of their employee benefits and the facility is open 51 weeks of the year.  Additionally, while 85% of the facility is dedicated to fitness and recreation, the building also houses the Office of Wellbeing, Student Health Service, SAFE Office, student EMTs, and lounge for students in recovery.

The project transforms the existing inward focused Reynolds Gym into a transparent vital University Hub providing a complimentary addition which forms a south terminus to the future Poteat Quad and provides integrated academic and student services.

Sustainable / Green features/LEED Rating

The initial target for the project was LEED Silver, but we soon plan to submit for LEED Gold certification. Features of the facility include:

  • All exterior windows replaced
  • Addition of high-efficient building mechanical systems zoned for functionality
  • Highly Efficient Lighting throughout (LED)
  • Re-use of an existing building, keeping the footprint of the new addition to scale and with as little impact to the site as possible. Also, reuse of existing brick and similar materials to infill at interior walls.
  • Photo-Voltaic Array (34 panels) on the roof that is used for heating of the lap pool and spa
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