CARBONDALE — Past and present employees of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Student Recreation Center gathered Saturday to celebrate the facility’s 40 years of service to students and the community.
The 214,000-square-foot recreation center on Grand Avenue, now home to a wide array of gymnasiums and studios, was originally built on the site of a run-down trailer park that served as student housing.
In 1963, SIU students approached the university administration to request the development of a recreation center. To raise the $11 million needed to build the facility, students paid into a fee each semester from 1964 to 1977, according to Troy Vaughn, SRC director.
“Knowing that we had thousands of students who paid into this fee and never used the facility at any point during that entire process, I think it’s important that that story be told,” Vaughn said.
At Saturday’s celebration, alumni and retired employees shared stories about their experiences working at the SRC. Staff unveiled a new history wall delineating the development of the facility.
The history wall project sprang from research on the development of SIU’s intramural sports and recreational activities for a book about the university’s history, Vaughn said.
“The more that I researched and the more that I looked into it, the more joy that I found, and the more people I was able to connect with … that were really the heart of this building way back in the day,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said he hopes the history wall will give students a greater understanding and appreciation of the facility.
“Our job is to get (students) away from the stress of classes … to get them healthy, for their overall wellness, for a very positive attitude. Many, many more times than not, if the students are coming in and they’re frowning and they look like they’re frazzled, they’re leaving happy or sweaty. They know they’ve accomplished something in our building, and that’s all I can ask for,” Vaughn said.