A New and Improved Natatorium

The Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center will be loaded with cool attractions.

Rendering of inside of future Bakke Recreation Center

The unique facility will offer a teaching kitchen, sports simulators, an indoor track, spaces to support mental health, and the Sub-Zero Ice Arena. Rendering by Kahler Slater/Hok

Badgers will soon have an innovative place to play, move, learn, and thrive — a new Natatorium is on the way for UW–Madison, with an assist from donors Jim ’77 and Sue Bakke. Jim is president and CEO of Madison’s Sub-Zero, and Sue is a former physical therapist. They are known around Madison for their philanthropic endeavors, which affect the UW, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, the Overture Center for the Arts, and other community initiatives.

Jim is the third generation to lead Sub-Zero, his family’s refrigeration business. The decision to provide the lead gift for the new facility was inspired by the family’s commitment to healthy lifestyles and overall well-being. The Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center will improve lives on campus, as well as in the greater Madison area, through community memberships, programming, and services. Located near Lake Mendota and the Lakeshore Path, this unique facility will offer a 25-yard recreational pool, a teaching kitchen, sports simulators, eight basketball courts, an indoor track, spaces to support mental health, and the Sub-Zero Ice Arena — an addition close to Jim’s heart, since he grew up playing hockey.

Like the old Natatorium, the Bakke Center will be near Native effigy mounds, so campus leaders partnered with the Ho-Chunk Nation to celebrate the area’s 12,000 years of human habitation with a sculpture designed by artist Ken Lewis, which will stand near the new facility. Construction is currently underway, with completion expected by 2023. Curious about how it’s going? Visit the Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center website.

Published in the Winter 2021 issue

Tags: Natatorium, philanthropy, Recreational Sports, Student life

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