Eastern Michigan University set to begin $16 million renovation of Rec/IM Building

New features and dramatic design improvements to result in special facility that will contribute significantly to student and staff well-being

architects rendering of new Rec/IM facility
Construction plans include renovating the main entrance on the east side of the building, shown here in this architect's rendering.

YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan is set to begin a major renovation of the Olds-Robb Rec/IM Building, a series of enhancements that will add significantly to the quality of student and staff life at the University.

“We’re extremely excited to begin this extensive and creative renovation project,” said Wes Howell, Director of the Rec/IM. “The Olds-Robb Rec/IM building plays a central role in student life at Eastern, and the improvements and redesign will produce a spectacular facility that we think students will enjoy and that will improve health and well-being, which can be significant factors in helping students flourish and remain successful in college.”

The $16 million renovation, details of which were outlined Friday, Dec. 14, 2018 at the regular meeting of the EMU Board of Regents, will begin in January 2019, with completion set for August 2020.

The overall goal of the project is to improve the look, feel and utility of the building. With that in mind, renovation priorities include the following:

• Enhanced access, including rebuilding of the main entry from the east, and constructing a new entry from the north, with striking views of the lakes and the EMU Student Center.

• Enhanced interactivity and connectivity of interior spaces and better exterior views, offering energizing sightlines conducive to exercise and well-being.

• Larger exercise, fitness and student collaboration spaces.

• Improved gaming, recreational and study areas.

The project will first involve renovating floors three-five, including the main gym, with new furnishings, lighting, equipment and air conditioning. New cardio and circuit training equipment will be added on the fourth floor track level, and the third floor student lounge will receive extensive enhancements. This portion of the project will run from January 2019 to August 2019.

The first and second floors will be completely redesigned, with expanded and open fitness and cross training areas that will include new windows offering views of the lake and other open campus areas. There will be a reduction of racquetball courts, once popular but now generally converted to other uses in similar facilities across the country. This second portion of the project will run from May 2019 to August 2020.

The building will remain open throughout construction, with some offices and recreational activities moved to the adjacent Warner Building to allow for construction. The existing basketball court in Warner will be utilized, and alternate weight room, cardio training and aerobic activity areas will also be established for certain periods. Overall, classes and other activities in the Rec/IM account for about 5,000 student credit hours annually. 

The project will be funded through a student rec fee, proposed by EMU student leaders after initial studies and input that began in 2014. The fee of $35 per semester, which students can opt out of, was approved by EMU students in 2017. Such fees at other, peer universities average $75.

The Board of Regents approved the project in December 2017.

The Robb/Olds Rec/IM Building was originally opened in 1982 and has not received any major improvements other than routine maintenance since its original construction.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 19,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

December 14, 2018

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom