Slaughter to be renovated in preparation for Outdoor Recreation Center move

A new climbing center will take the place of existing squash and racquetball courts

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IM-Rec plans to demolish Slaughter's three squash courts and two of its eight racquetball courts to make space for the additions

Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

Slaughter Recreation Center is set to undergo renovations starting March 26 in order to make room for an upcoming relocation of the Outdoor Recreation Center. Slaughter will house expanded climbing and rental centers as part of the new ORC, as well as a functional training facility.

This move is part of the University’s Ivy Corridor Renovation Plan, an effort which will incorporate public green space and new facilities into the 14-acre area at the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road. The plan also involves the demolition of the Villa and the Cavalier Inn.

Slaughter Recreation Center is located just off of McCormick Road behind Alderman Road first-year dorms. This is the facility’s first major renovation since locker rooms and storage space were added in 1990.

Intramural-Recreational Sports, U.Va.’s administrative department overseeing athletic facilities and student recreation, plans to demolish all three of the facility’s squash courts and two of its eight racquetball courts to make space for the additions.

Cost assessment for the project is currently underway, but IM-Rec will use combined funding with facilities management to complete heating, ventilation, and air conditioning work. 

The current ORC has occupied a former gas station on Emmet Street since the 1990s. Because the facility is leased instead of owned, the University has been limited in its ability to make improvements. 

“One of the issues we had along that line was the office space in that location is very limited,” said Scott A. Reed, associate director for Facilities and Resource Management and project manager for the ORC relocation. “Also, the climbing and bouldering aspect of that facility is very limited from a space perspective. The capacity of that climbing surface is small compared to what the demands are for that type of activity here at U.Va.”

IM-Rec administrators chose to relocate the ORC to Slaughter primarily because of the gym’s age and convenient proximity to first-year dorms.

“Slaughter is one of our facilities that is probably less utilized than our others,” Reed said. “It also is a facility that is one of the older ones that we have in our inventory, so we’ve actually been looking at trying to upgrade or renovate that facility for a while, even without specifically having to move the Outdoor Rec Center.” 

In addition to the climbing center and training facility, Slaughter will be renovated to include expanded office space and repaired heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The planned climbing wall will be about 2,000 square feet — an improvement to the 400 square feet available at the current ORC.

“The climbing surface would go from essentially being able to serve maybe 10 people at a time to as many as 40 actually on the wall at one time,” Reed said.

A functional training facility will take the place of Slaughter’s weight-lifting area, creating a more open space that focuses on core stability and functional movement patterns rather than machine-based training. 

In November 2017, IM-Rec began reaching out to student groups like the Climbing Team, Outdoors Club and Racquetball Club for input on the renovation.

With two of its courts set for demolition, the Racquetball Club — a Contracted Independent Organization that practices at Slaughter two to three nights a week — negotiated full access to all six of the remaining courts.

“At our first meeting [with Facilities Management], they basically told us ‘you’ll still have access to these six courts but you can only reserve four,’” said George Moss, a second-year College student and internal president of Racquetball Club. “We’re already at max capacity when we have six courts, some days we’ll go over to seven or eight courts … so ultimately we got a concession and agreement that we’ll still be able to reserve all six courts.” 

“We have a new set of officers who are really looking to expand and grow the club and drive engagement, and by taking away two courts, it makes it a little bit difficult,” Moss added. 

Moss said the Racquetball Club also hopes to negotiate a revision to the fire code, which would allow more visitors in Slaughter’s above-ground viewing area. The current capacity for that space is 15 people. 

“That was really detrimental because we could never host a tournament or even a very lowly scrimmage with another team even though we had eight courts,” Moss said. “If we get that fixed, the loss of two courts will be mitigated.” 

Finally, Racquetball Club leaders hope to lobby for minor facility improvements, like the installation of lockers and two glass-backed courts.

As the renovation begins and meetings continue, Moss said Racquetball Club and IM-Rec have a positive relationship.

“We really appreciate them listening to us as pretty much the primary stakeholder in this and hearing our concerns and actually addressing them and meeting with us, so far, once a month,” Moss said. “It’s been fruitful and at first we were sort of lost on what to do back in November … but we’ve really improved that.”

At a public input session Tuesday evening, Outdoor Recreation Center director John McCall presented plans for the center’s relocation.

McCall also opened the floor up for questions and suggestions, where attendees asked about the specifics of the new climbing wall and outdoor center.

McCall said adding a tread wall to the climbing area is an option, to which attendees offered varied opinions.

“Within Charlottesville, there’s no option for endurance training,” fourth-year College student Peter Malander said. “I think a [tread wall] is a necessary thing to have.”

Third-year College student Bill Talley said he was concerned the tread wall would not be used.

“There’s a lot of failed ideas in the world of exercise equipment,” Talley said. “It’d be a shame if this turned out to be a bad investment.”

Director of Recreation Programs Erica Goode also presented information on the functional training facility, after which attendees filled out surveys about the planned changes.

The renovation will be phased in three to four parts to limit user displacement. Demolition of the squash and racquetball courts will begin next week and construction is set to conclude at the beginning of the fall 2018 semester.

Correction: The original version of this article said the upcoming renovations to Slaughter Recreation Center are the first major renovations since its construction in 1978. Slaughter underwent renovations in 1990, adding locker rooms and storage space.

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