JACKSONVILLE — The newest building at Jacksonville State University is just a year old, but JSU freshman Carlee Fleming hasn’t known college life without it.
“I don’t get as much use here as I should,” Fleming said from JSU’s recreation center Tuesday evening, where she was attending, along with fellow freshman Chloe Forest, a one-year anniversary celebration for the $39 million facility. “The treadmills are the best part. You can watch Netflix while you run on the treadmill.”
For the celebration, food and desserts were served Tuesday evening on the then-tarp laden center room of the center that normally houses three basketball courts. Inflatable obstacle activities, photo booths and giveaways met the students who had minds for celebration rather than a workout.
Tuesday marked a year since the soft launch of the facility on Jan. 14, 2019. Since then, the facility has seen students come out in great numbers, according to Dominic DiMauro, the associate director of JSU’s recreation program.
“We’re seeing good usage, not only in students, but from faculty and staff as well,” DiMauro said.
A total of 6,375 different students visited the center in 2019, according to DiMauro, with a total student visit tally of over 150,000. JSU sported an enrollment of 9,021 in fall 2019. The center received around 28,000 total visits from non-students.
The facility is full of modern conveniences, from those tablet-equipped treadmills to the Starbucks coffee available in the study area. Such amenities make it a social center as well as a workout facility, Forest said.
“We’re in a sorority, and we’ve even come to get our required study hours at Starbucks,” she said.
“You can use it however you want to,” Fleming added.
“Students even use the building just to come and hang out, and that’s been awesome to see,” DiMauro said.
“It really serves multiple purposes rather than just people working out. They’re coming in more, and I think they’re really taking ownership of what we’re offering.”
The use of the facility comes at a price.
Students were initially charged a $190 mandatory fee at the opening of the recreation center to pay for the facility, in addition to a few other fees. But now, JSU’s fees, including the center fee, are bundled into packages based on the number of credit hours students enroll in, with students taking more than six hours in a semester charged $700 in fees per semester.
DiMaruo said students initially reacted poorly to the cost of the facility.
“It still occasionally comes up, but things have diminished over time as students have used it,” DiMauro said.
“I think it’s definitely worth it to have a facility this nice,” Fleming said. “My sister came here before they had this, and she said she definitely would have loved to have a building like this.”
DiMauro said he considered the first year of operation for the recreation center a success.
“We’re still just scratching the surface, we’re going to grow and evolve what we offer even further,” he said.