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Rebuilding After Katrina

Rebuilding and restoring Tulane University's Reily Student Recreation Center was a collaborative effort.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 28, survival was at the top of everyone's list. When it was safe to head back into affected areas, and residents got their first view of the damage, survival changed to clean up and rebuild. Tulane University in New Orleans, La., was hit hard by the storm, and, with thousands of students needing to return, it had to work fast to get the university back in order. The Reily Student Recreation Center, which houses the university's fitness center, pool and athletic services, sustained heavy damage. According to Chris Maitre, associate director, the building suffered ground level and first floor flooding of classrooms and office space (the building is four stories). The water ruined office furnishings and equipment, plus mechanical equipment such as HVAC, boilers, chillers and elevators. There was also "significant damage" to the natatorium roof and some aquatics mechanical equipment. The 50-meter pool remained closed while the roof was under repair, and re-opened this spring. In addition, there was water damage to hardwood floors as a result of flooding and roof leaks, and the university lost the use of the primary intramural and club sports field, as both the turf and lighting were damaged. Adding to the physical damage to the building, there were lots of other details that needed attention. Explains Maitre, "Communication was a significant issue during and after the storm. It was very difficult to locate both our part-time student staff and some of our full-time staff. Land lines, cell phones and the university-based email system were rendered inoperable. This created the need to establish new cellular phone service outside of the 504 area code, and to subscribe to third-party email services such as Yahoo or Hotmail in order to keep in touch." In all, Maitre says that the cost to repair the Reily Student Recreation Center was right around $1.3 million. The university suffered $100 million in operating losses alone. Rebuilding and restoring was a collaborative effort that included Belfor, a property restoration firm contracted by the university, and Karl E. Woodward, a local construction company. University-wide project management was provided by the university's Facilities Services department and the facilities staff of Campus Recreation provided oversight and management for all Reily Center repairs, Maitre says. Included in the repairs was all flooring and equipment for first floor administrative offices and classrooms. Maple floors were repaired, replaced and refinished. Exterior work is underway, and the natatorium roof was replaced. The fitness center also replaced all of its treadmills. The Reily Student Recreation Center re-opened in early November to Tulane faculty and staff, and re-opened in December to the greater New Orleans community. Tulane students were welcomed back January 12. Maitre speaks for all survivors of the storm when he says that "out of something terrible like Katrina, we have to find some value." The silver lining at Tulane is that "we were able to achieve some overdue improvements in our plumbing and HVAC systems, we are scheduled to replace our sod field with a new synthetic turf field and, perhaps most significant [was] the replacement of the entire roof system over the natatorium." Students at Tulane have come to depend on the Reily Center to provide them with the opportunity to balance their academic life. Says Maitre, "The Reily Center is a popular and preferred destination, averaging over 1,500 visits a day from students, faculty and staff, alums and community members. Whether our students seek to relieve stress, learn a new sport, play competitively or simply work out for their own personal health and wellness, there are huge benefits to recreating at Reily."

Facility Stats

Reily Student Recreation Center at Tulane University New Orleans, La.; 504-865-5431; Date fitness facility opened: January 1989 Fitness facility size: 156,000 square feet Number of members: Total active members: 15,835 (student: 11,069; faculty/staff: 1,825; alumni: 640; community: 1,301) Strength equipment: More than 9,000 pounds of free weights, plates and barbells; Hammer Strength, Cybex and Life Fitness plateloaded; two ABenches; Technogym, Life Fitness and Paramount selectorized Cardio equipment: Precor treadmills and elliptical trainers, StairMaster 4400s, upright cycles (two Life Fitness, two Tectrix), recumbent cycles (seven Life Fitness, four Tectrix), Concept2 rowers, one Precor ArcTrainer, one Keiser TrekMill, one UBE ergometer, two Schwinn AirDyne bikes, one NuStep recumbent stepper; all have Cardio Theater connections, 22 have personal screens Group exercise classes: Absolutely Abs; Abs, Buns and Thighs; Aqua Fit; Aqua-4-Life; Fit-4-Life; Fitness Swimming; Kick Fit; Kick & Tone; Power Circuit; Power Pump; Silver Sneakers; Step; Step & Cardio; Step & Tone; Strengthen & Stretch; Spinning; Total Body Conditioning Amenities: Five volleyball/basketball courts, six racquetball courts, one squash court, one group cycling studio, one auxiliary gymnasium, two multi-purpose group exercise studios, an outdoor social pool and sundeck, and an indoor 50-meter Olympic-size pool
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