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Saturday, September 23, 2023

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(Wade Griffith Photography, SmithGroup) (Wade Griffith Photography, SmithGroup)

SDSU's Aztec Recreation Center Wins 2023 NIRSA Outstanding Facilities Award

The newly completed ARC was one of seven universities nationwide to win the award.
By Olivia Li

With its sustainable and cutting-edge design, Associated Students’ Aztec Recreation Center has received the 2023 Outstanding Facilities Award from NIRSA, a collegiate recreation organization. 


According to the NIRSA website, the “NIRSA Outstanding Facilities Awards recognize the innovative designs of new, renovated or expanded collegiate recreational facilities.” The newly expanded and renovated ARC was one of seven facilities chosen for the award by the selection committee.


“To receive this recognition on a national level is a testament to all the hard work, creativity and teamwork that went into this project,” said A.S. Associate Executive Director and Aztec Recreation Director Mark Zakrzewski. “I’m really proud of this great team effort.”


To qualify for the award, the facility had to demonstrate excellence in a number of areas, including architectural design and functionality while creating an experience desired and valued by students.


The entire process of designing and building the ARC, which began in 2017, relied heavily on the student voice. Students were involved in feasibility studies, touring other campus recreation facilities to get ideas for the project. They were also instrumental in guiding the facility’s color scheme and advocating for gender-neutral restrooms and larger privacy areas among other features.


Lauren Samidi, 2022-23 A.S. Recreation and Wellness commissioner, said student interest in expanded recreation facilities fueled a successful 2018 referendum for a fee to finance the renovation and expansion. “Students were in those conversations on designing, planning and creating the ARC because the building is for them,” she said.


Zakrzewski believes the combination of sustainable elements and the overall design of the building were primary reasons the ARC won the award. In January 2023, the ARC received LEED Platinum status for New Construction, the highest recognition in sustainable design and construction.


The building is all electric, not running on any fossil fuels, and is a prime example for the future of sustainable construction. In addition, the facility boasts innovative design elements, including clerestory sawtooth windows, a hot yoga room, two Olympic lifting spaces and a quiet lounge.


Of the many sustainable elements in the building, the rain and condensate water system is a favorite feature of A.S. Associate Director of Facilities and Sustainability Reginald Cabanilla.


“We have this really amazing rain and condensate water capture system where all the water is collected and reused inside of the facility,” Cabanilla said. “We capture all of our site rainwater and our condensate water that is produced by our HVAC equipment, treat it and then you don’t see the water until you flush the toilet. It saves a lot of water and that’s super important for an environment like ours where water is finite.”


The combination of student input, analyzing trends in collegiate recreation and the fitness industry and leading the conversation on sustainable building ultimately led to the award-winning building for current and future generations of SDSU students.


The ARC is the only West Coast facility to win the 2023 award. Other recipients of the award include the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Recreation Turf Fields and Florida Gulf Coast University’s Rec Deck.


In addition to the national recognition, the ARC’s impact is validated even more by its usage. Zakrzewski believes an important illustration of the facility’s success is the increase in daily visits, which have nearly doubled compared to before the expansion and renovation.


“Our team put in so much time, effort, strategic planning and dedication for the wellness of students,” Samidi said. “Receiving this recognition means so much because this award shows we were able to accomplish that.”