RCC reopens as RAC, emphasizes wellness and mental health


Christine Sanchez

The Recreation and Athletic Center opened on Jan. 13 at 7 a.m. The RecWell staff was preparing for the grand opening at several days’ worth of trainings the week before.

The St. Edward’s community has recently welcomed a new addition to its Recreation and Wellness facilities where students, staff and faculty can work on their mental and physical wellbeing — the Recreation and Athletic Center.

The facility formally opened on the first day of the spring 2020 semester on Monday Jan. 13 at 7 a.m. and the grand opening ceremony took place later that day. The ceremony included a blessing of the building by Father Peter Walsh and speeches by university President George Martin and Senior Director of Recreation and Wellness Andy Lemons.

The RAC was previously known as the Recreation and Convocation Center (RCC), and renovations to the building began last year. During the renovation, a temporary weight room was set up in the Alumni Gym, and Group X classes were held in both Alumni Gym and rooms on the ground floor of Main Building.

Although renovations to the RAC began around a year ago, Lemons recalls that plans to renovate the facility came to mind over a decade ago, specifically, “the third day [he] was at work in 2009.”

“We knew that the weight room was too small and the programs were really limited in what was available to students,” Lemons said. “A facility expansion would take a lot of time, effort, energy and money, and we needed to build a base of students who are experiencing Recreation and Wellness programs first to show the demand and the impact of those programs of student success.”

According to Lemons, there was work to be done before expanding the facilities in the way that he envisioned. Expanding the facility would mean proving that there was a need to do so.

“So that’s when we created the Group X program, personal training, aquatics, [we] expanded club sports from two clubs to 19 clubs. [We] had a staff of six student employees and now we have a staff of 80. So over that 10 year period, we’ve been building up this catalogue of programs to serve students’ wellness needs,” he said.

At the grand opening, Lemons gave thanks to everyone involved in the renovation of the RAC — such as the TRUE fitness team and St. Edward’s facilities — as well as those who help run the new facility, which includes 80 student staff members and nine who serve on the leadership team.

The new RAC, which is open to St. Edward’s faculty, staff and students features a fitness studio exclusively with TRUE Fitness machines such as ellipticals, leg presses and dumbbells.

The RAC also features a tech-free lounge — which includes a couch, a coffee and tea station, a meditation corner and a nap pod — as well as a study room and new restrooms and showers.

The new facility puts an emphasis on wellness rather than traditional physical “fitness.” Lemons says that this change was intentional in order to get more students to focus on their overall wellbeing.

“In my dream world, everyone finds 30 minutes to an hour to spend in that facility and take care of that wellness,” Lemons said.

Father Peter Walsh also talked about how the St. Edward’s community will benefit from the new space.

“We’re all part of a complex being that God created, and we need to take care of what God has made and give glory for that,” Walsh said.

Natalia Russel, the St. Edward’s Cheer coach, says that the new facility “shows students the full potential in their wellness, both physically and mentally.”

As far as her cheer team goes, Russel says that, especially when cheer is in its busy season, the facility can be a good place where her team can destress.

“I think this could definitely be a space that [the cheerleading team] can come to get some of their anxiety out by working out physically or going to the [tech-free] lounge or the yoga studio get their minds right,” Russel added.

Students were also excited to take advantage of the new facility. Sophomore Ryan Talbot said he was most excited for the new yoga studio, which is located on the top floor of the RAC and includes floor to ceiling windows that provide a view of Main Building.

“I’m a big fan of the Group X yoga classes, so I’m really excited to check out the new yoga studio,” Talbot said.

Lemons’ final message echoed back to the university motto and his hope for students.

“We would like all students to learn how to take care of themselves so they can take on their world,” he said.