UWL celebrates 100 years of REC sports


Photo provided by Jeff Keenan.

Jack O, Sports Reporter

On Saturday, April 30, the Recreational Eagle Center (REC) hosted a celebration for 100 years of recreational sports here at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The celebration included a lot of activities that highlighted the variety of things to do at the REC. This included indoor climbing, Esports, yard games, and traditional sports as well. There were also tours given of the REC and the rest of campus.

The celebration concluded with “The 100 Years of Playing” held at the Cleary Alumni & Friends Center. There were refreshments and food as well as a keynote address done by Jody Redman. Redman is a former Rec Sports Graduate assistant and is a nationally recognized expert on strategic planning and leadership development.

“It was a great way to have our students, staff, and alumni come back and meet different people. Alumni brought their kids and enjoyed all the activities we provided,” said Recreational Sports director Jeff Keenan.

The REC also sold old intramural jerseys with proceeds going towards the Recreation Foundation Fund. This fund helps pay for students who might not have the opportunity to participate in recreational activities.

Recreational sports began in 1922 when Physical Education Professor, Emma Lou Wilder, founded the Women’s Athletic Association to introduce intramurals to UWL. Wilder also helped get UWL to introduce a recreational major to its list of programs offered.

In 1928, the Men’s Intramural Athletic Association was founded by Ferdinand Lipovels and the purpose was to have “athletics for all.”

In the academic year 1945-1946, the Recreation major was officially offered, and Physical Education Graduate program also began.

In 1964, there was the opening of Mitchell Hall here at UWL, but not until 1972, due to an addition to the building, did Mitchell Hall have an indoor track, classrooms, and labs available for students.

In 1977 the Women’s and Men’s Intramural programs merged.
20 years later the REC building you see on campus now opens. The 10.2 million dollar project took a year to complete. This building had the option to have four basketball courts, six volleyball courts, a four-lane running track, and a strength room.

A year later the second phase of the REC building opens which introduced the climbing wall and racquetball courts.

In 2003 the Rec department went through a change as it moved from the College of Health, Physical Education, and Teacher Education to Student Development and Academic Services. This department included intramurals, group fitness classes, outdoor connection, sports clubs, a climbing wall, and the REC.

In 2018 the REC expanded to include a brand-new fitness center that tripled the size of the previous one. Above the new fitness center, the REC added a multiactivity court.

In 2022 the REC introduced Esports with the opening of EZONE. Esports adds to the many diverse activities a student can do at the REC.
“That’s a century of working towards our vision of a thriving community enjoying active and healthy lives,” said Keenan. “No matter what the activity is, Rec sports has a way to get you engaged and active.”

Keenan has worked at other universities’ recreational sports programs but hasn’t seen rec sports so centered in the community as it is at UWL. “Students and administrators alike value recreation and understand its benefits,” said Keenan.

The 100-year celebration was an opportunity to showcase the history of the Recreational sports program, its growth, and how it has served the UWL community.

“We will continue to evolve to meet students’ expectations of what they want to play,” said Keenan. An event like this doesn’t just showcase where the REC and its program were, but where it is going.