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Finish in sight for new Badgers pool construction, Field House exterior renovation

Finish in sight for new Badgers pool construction, Field House exterior renovation

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Field House Windows

Workers prepare to position new glass panes into frames at the UW Field House on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.

Two long-sought facility upgrades for University of Wisconsin sports teams are nearing completion.

It hasn't been a completely smooth process for either over the last few months because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Nicholas Recreation Center is scheduled to open Monday with limited capacity on the site of the former Southeast Recreational Facility near the Kohl Center and LaBahn Arena. The University Recreation and Wellbeing building includes the Soderholm Family Aquatic Center that will be home to the Badgers swimming and diving teams.

Upgrades and cleaning on the exterior of the UW Field House, where Badgers volleyball and wrestling teams compete, should be finished by the middle of October, senior associate athletic director Jason King said.

The 50-meter pool won't be open for recreational swimming until mid-October while licensing processes are completed, Recreation and Wellbeing director Aaron Hobson said. And it'll be temporarily without the moveable floor that will allow for conversion between a competition pool and recreational uses.

The parts are on campus, King said, but the technicians to install them aren't able to get to the U.S. because of the COVID-19 travel ban.

"We waited as long as we could wait," King said. "With so much uncertainty about the future, it was determined that it was best to go forward and fill the pool."

When overseas entry to the U.S. is possible, the pool will be drained and the moveable floor installed.

The Badgers swimming and diving teams have competed at the Natatorium but had their training facilities at the now-demolished SERF. The Soderholm Family Aquatic Center also has a diving well, a video board and seating for around 1,000, King said.

UW Athletics paid $13.5 million toward the $96 million Nicholas Recreation Center for UW students and staff, which features 30,400 square feet of fitness space, eight full-size basketball courts and five multipurpose studios. It was slated to open last January but experienced weather and construction delays.

The $6 million Field House project includes new doors and windows, a cleaning of the exterior and construction of a new plaza outside the south entrance. It has been a priority for UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, who was critical of the crumbling walls and old windows of the 90-year-old building.

Delivery of the new windows was delayed this summer when the factory that was building them temporarily shut down because of the pandemic. All are now on site and a majority have been installed.

"We're excited with the new plaza and the new windows and doors of that facility," King said. "It's just really spruced up that entrance to the campus."

Other athletic department building projects are on hold or having their timing reconsidered, King told the Athletic Board's Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee on Wednesday.

UW announced in July that it was putting off the start to a conversion of Camp Randall Stadium's south end zone into premium seating. Design work is continuing on that $77 million project, which includes updates to the press box, the installation of new field turf for the stadium and McClain Center and other infrastructure upgrades.

UW officials will make a call this fall on how to proceed with an estimated $48 million addition to the Kohl Center's southwest corner, above the loading dock area, that was supposed to begin in 2021. The expansion will primarily add space for athlete services such as academics, sports medicine and strength and conditioning.

King called the Camp Randall and Kohl Center changes "transformational projects for our department."

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