You Belong at Bakke

The latest upgrade to campus wellness facilities goes beyond traditional sports and fitness.

Architectural rendering of the central interior area of the new Bakke recreation center showing staircases leading to multiple levels

The Bakke’s open concept, natural lighting, and spacious floorplans help create a comfortable and inclusive environment. Althea Dotzour

The slogan that branded the soft opening of the new Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center in April is more than good marketing: it’s a mission statement.

“We are utilizing our services to reach students in new ways, well beyond your traditional intramural sports or group fitness classes,” says Aaron Hobson ’08, director of University Recreation & Wellbeing (Rec Well). “We’re recognizing that students feel safe and welcome in our spaces and are taking advantage of those spaces to build a sense of belonging on campus.”

The Bakke, which replaced the Natatorium, was designed in partnership with UW students to embody and encourage belonging. Its architecture reflects the curvature of the nearby Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Inside, a variety of fully equipped spaces and a rich catalog of programming cater to a diverse campus community whose needs — physical, mental, social, and emotional — are met with the guiding principle of holistic wellness.

“We know that our students are here for academics, first and foremost, but those can be rigorous, and they can be challenging,” Hobson says. “Students need amenities and resources and outlets that can help them be successful inside the classroom by taking care of themselves outside of the classroom.”

At the Bakke, that self-care might include using the strength and cardio equipment of a traditional gym or swimming laps in Cove Pool. It can also mean working on a golf swing in the Skybox Suites sports simulators, competing virtually in the eSports studio, catching some shut-eye in a nap pod, scaling the Mt. Mendota climbing wall, building nutritional know-how in the Wolf Teaching Kitchen, taking a spin class, meeting with a peer wellness coach, or simply enjoying a quiet moment on the Willow Deck.

“[The Bakke] is building this whole, balanced ecosystem of wellness,” says Angeline Peterson MA’18, PhDx’23, a student employee at the Bakke. Though this self-contained ecosystem is only one part of a student’s campus experience, Hobson hopes it will be an integral one.

“We’ve always dreamed of being a ‘third place,’ ” Hobson says. “You have your home, you have school, but then you can find that third place here, whatever that place might be for you.”

Published in the Fall 2023 issue


No comments posted yet.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *