UW-Madison students planning to get in cardio between classes next year will be looking for the Nick.
The university announced Tuesday the replacement gym for the Southeast Recreational Facility (known colloquially as the SERF) will be named the Nicholas Recreation Center after the philanthropic Nicholas family. The new gym, which will vastly increase the available fitness space for students across campus, opens in 2019.
A $20 million donation by Nancy Nicholas and family members in honor of her late husband Albert Nicholas, a former UW-Madison basketball player and businessman, is going toward the $96.5 million project.
University officials have dubbed the future gym the Nick.
The new facility at 715 W. Dayton St. is planned to have about 30,000 square feet of fitness space, an improvement on the 8,000 square feet that was offered in the demolished SERF.
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From the Nicholas family’s donation, $15 million is going to the construction of the building and $5 million to create an Olympic-size swimming pool in the facility. The pool will be shared between the university’s swim team and UW-Madison’s Division of Recreational Sports, which operates the campus workout facilities.
The entire project is being financed by donations and student fee increases approved in a campus-wide referendum in 2014. While the SERF was only 34 years old, high demand, problems with accessibility and maintenance problems prompted university officials and students to seek a new option.
Albert “Ab” Nicholas graduated from UW-Madison with a master’s degree in business administration in 1955 and founded the Milwaukee-based investment firm Nicholas Co. He died in 2016.
Albert and Nancy Nicholas, also a UW-Madison graduate, have donated tens of millions of dollars to the university, including a $50 million matching grant in 2015 for scholarships.
The Nicholas Recreation Center is the second stage in the Division of Recreational Sports master plan, which included a $6.8 million upgrade to the Near West Playfields in 2017.