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Titan Recreation Director Andrea Willer overlooks the front entrance of the new recreation center

Titan Recreation Director Andrea Willer overlooks the front entrance of the new recreation center. Photo by Kelly Lacefield.

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Titan Recreation Director Sees Dream Come True

April 8, 2008

These days it would be hard to believe that you would ever see Andrea Willer without a smile on her face.

The Titan Recreation Director is still pinching herself that the $40.6-million, 95,000-square-foot Student Recreation Center has become a reality and a popular one at that. With construction completed, the center opened in March and this week, Associated Students Inc. will celebrate with an April 9 campuswide debut beginning at 9:30 a.m..

"On average we have between 1,600 to 1,700 participants using the facilities each week day," Willer said. "We had toured other facilities, including those at UCI, and had hopes that we would be somewhat close to the number of students who attend their recreation centers — but we have far exceeded their start up numbers! We are ecstatic!"

Willer — who holds an Ed.D. in organizational leadership from the University of La Verne — joined the campus eight years ago, 11 days before the student body passed a referendum to assess themselves fees to build and operate a recreation center.

She leads all Titan Recreation programs, which range from drop-in fitness and intramural sports — in which more than 1,500 students participate — to youth programs and activities held in Titan Bowl and Billiards, located in the basement of the Titan Student Union.

This year, as part of the instructional recreation program, Willer is adding first aid, CPR and lifeguard training. And as part of the Titan Youth Sports program, Willer will be adding a youth rock climbing and sports performance camps, as well as a "Parent and Me" movement, rhythm and balance program for 18-month to 4-year-old toddlers.

The Student Recreation Center is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Among its amenities are a 22,000-square-foot multicourt gymnasium, a 15,000-square-foot cardio/weight room — one of the largest on a West Coast campus and featuring special equipment for use by disabled students — an outdoor lap pool, a multimedia cardio room, a cycling room and an indoor track.

One of its most prominent features is a 38-foot-by-28-foot rock wall, right off the center's entrance.

Q. It sounds like you're very busy right now.

A. There are certainly lots of changes. Right now the primary thing is the facility and the expanded full-time staff. Previously, we were very program specific. We didn't have to worry about custodians or maintenance issues, because we didn't ‘own' the facilities where we operated. [Programs formerly operated out of the Kinesiology and Health Science Building.]

Now we are responsible for the building, so we have to be focused not just on the programs we offer but on how the facility can and should be used to meet our program needs. It's a major mind shift not only for me, but for the entire staff. There's a lot of new information, systems to learn, patterns to get into for operating this facility. We doubled our part-time staff from 60 to 120 student employees. Those new student-employees are the outstanding ones — they had to learn everything — all our policies, paperwork, etc. — right as we opened the center, which created a whole other set of rules, processes, etc.

Q. Did that create surprise challenges?

A. The challenges are what make it so exciting. There's always something new.

There is a spot on the second floor where you can see the entrance, lobby, rock wall, track and cardio room at a glance. You can literally FEEL the positive responses and the energy it creates. It's been very positive.

Q. Any major problems when you opened?

A. The first issues have been that we discovered we need another water fountain and need to develop a place where can students store their skateboards. Other than that, it's been nothing but positive, positive, positive.

We established two rules and expected some backlash to them, but they have been received very well. Those rules are that there are no unattended bags and no cell phone use anywhere other than the lobby and the hallway. We restricted the phones because so many come with cameras on them and also, so that students can use the facility and feel like they are getting away from the day-to-day grind. Students have been polite and understanding about these and the response again has been very positive.

Q. One of your group exercise studios is named for Harvey McKee, the former executive director of Associated Students Inc. administration. Has he seen the room?

A. Has he! He comes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays to work out.

Q. The design of the structure was honored with "Best Overall Sustainable Design" at the 2007 Best Practice Awards for the University of California/California State University Energy Efficiency Partnership Program. Among its features is effective water use. I understand that there's a story about the installation of these items. Can you share?

A. We were committed to sustainability but we wanted to make sure the end user had a quality experience. When the architect suggested low-flow showerheads, we literally took them home and installed them in our showers to test them. And when the architect suggested dual-flush toilets, we had one installed on campus — but it was a little awkward to test, as you can imagine.

So we went out and bought some tofu, which we were told would be the best substitute for the real thing. It was quite a funny moment…just picture the design team standing around a toilet bowl flushing tofu and watching it go down... but it worked and now we have 19 dual-flush toilets installed in the building.

Q. Was it fun to plan the center?

A. It was lots of fun. I worked closely with Kurt [Borsting, director of the Titan Student Union] and we found that we have a lot of the same tastes, so that made the process easy. Neither of us had to make a lot of compromises.

It was neat to see the whole thing come together and the most fun was the first day. I was here for 19 hours but I was just so excited to see the center open and the response to it. I wish I had a video camera to get the reactions.

Andrea Willer oversees sign-ups in early March.
Andrea Willer oversees sign-ups in early March.  Photo by Kelly Lacefield


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