The University of Iowa’s new Campus Recreation and Wellness Center supports three primary programs — aquatic athletics and recreation, student fitness and recreation, and university wellness programs.

Funded by both self-imposed student fees and the athletics department, the primary function of the center is to provide “drop-in” activities such as individual fitness, aquatics and wellness programs. The new facility consolidates recreation and wellness offerings into one central location and replaces a deteriorating Field House competition pool, which will be decommissioned and renovated for dedicated and scheduled recreation related activities.

The 50-meter competitive pool, dive pool and leisure pool are a prime destination for anyone using the facility. Opened in August of 2010, these pools provide updated facilities for athletes, the general student body, faculty and staff. Programmed areas which directly support swimming and diving include a 50-meter-by-25-yard, deep-water competition pool, a dive pool with a 10-meter tower and spring board platforms, dive spa, a zero-depth leisure pool and a recreation spa. Other amenities in this state-of-the-art facility include spectator seating for 1,200, swim team lockers, swim team lounge, “wet” classroom, a training center and support spaces.

The architecture of the building itself was conceived with the urban site conditions and the campus environment in mind, while being outwardly expressive of the mission of student and recreation services.

The north portion of the building utilizes daylight with a series of transparent interlocking “boxes” set on a fin-like columnar structural system. The transparency allows views into and out of recreation activities throughout the day, while exuding a glowing attraction in the evening. The transparent “boxes” are set in front of a masonry mass backdrop which houses the aquatic and multi-activity spaces. This masonry mass, in addition to providing isolation from the western sun, acts as a buffer both in scale and program to the adjacent railroad track and power plant facility.

The interior of the building reinforces the exterior transparency by providing dynamic and compelling views into all major recreation and aquatic spaces. These views become an endless and ever changing background for participants, while facilitating ease of supervision.

The competitive and dive pool are collocated within space filled with natural daylight, providing views into and from many other activity areas. As spectators enter into the space, they pass by a bronze relief sculpture of Jack Sieg, who was instrumental in developing the Butterfly swimming stroke. Continuing along an elevated walkway, focus is drawn to the iconic dive tower featuring an internally lighted spine with 10, 7.5, 5, 3 and 1-meter platforms. Flanking each side of the tower are two 1-meter and two 3-meter diving springboards. Inlaid in the bottom of the dive pool is a gold “Tigerhawk”, the symbol of University of Iowa athletics.

Two movable bulkheads within the competitive pool provide multiple configurations for 25-yard, 25-meter and 50-meter competition. Additionally, the 25-yard width of the pool accommodates multiple lanes allowing simultaneous practice for both men’s and women’s swim teams.

The leisure pool is located adjacent to the competitive pool and is separated by a full length glass wall. The separation allows continuous student access to water activities during swim/dive and team practices, while also allowing precise control of the leisure pool’s higher temperature environs. The leisure pool features a zero-depth entry, three 20-yard lap lanes, a vortex, a current channel, and a 21-person spa. Also provided are play features, bubble couches, a bouldering wall, and large video board.

Designers also focused on sustainable and environmental considerations. To assist the University of Iowa achieve its sustainability goals, several opportunities to reduce energy, water and chemical demand were presented. Variable-frequency drives (VFD’s) were utilized in conjunction with the pool pumps. In lieu of manually throttling the pumps output by utilizing valves, pool pumps utilize VFDs to automatically control the rotation speed of the AC motors by controlling the frequency of the electrical power supplied to the motor. The major benefit to using a VFD system is in the cost of electricity to operate the pool mechanical system. In addition to energy cost savings, the VFD system greatly reduces the wear of the motor and impeller, ultimately saving maintenance, repair, and replacement costs.

Improved indoor air quality was an additional goal and was achieved by the installation of an ultraviolet dechloramination and disinfection system (UV). The UV system greatly reduces chloramines and has been shown to be highly effective against chlorine resistant pathogens like cryptosporidium and giardia as well as the vast majority of bacteria, viruses, yeast and mold. An additional advantage in utilizing a UV system is in the reduction of corrosion of ferrous materials exposed in the typical highly corrosive natatorium environment.

As a testament to the success and energizing effect of the CRWC opening, students have requested and have been granted extended hours from those first implemented in August 2010. Additionally, the University of Iowa hosted the USA Diving 2011 Winter National Championships in January, the first time ever that USA Diving has held its national championships at the University of Iowa. Upcoming swimming events include USA Swimming Speedo Championship Series in 2011 and the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Swimming Championships in 2012. This aquatic facility is quickly becoming recognized as one of the premier facilities within the United States.


Opened: 2010

Cost: $5.5 million

Aquatic space: 21,920 square feet

Dream amenities: The center includes a 13,000-square-foot competition pool; 1,200 spectator seats; a large video display board; a 4,400-square-foot dive pool with 1- and 3-meter springboards and 1-, 3-, 5-, 7.5- and 10-meter platforms; a 110-square-foot dive spa; a 4,100-square-foot recreation pool with zero-depth entry, underwater benches, vortex, current channel, play features, a rock climbing wall, water volleyball and water basketball; and a 310-square-foot recreation spa.


  • Dream Designer: RDG Planning & Design
  • Architect:RDG Planning & Design
  • Aquatic Designer:Counsilman-Hunsaker
  • Civil Engineer: Shive-Hattery
  • MEP Engineer: Alvine Engineering
  • Structural Engineer:Charles Saul Engineering
  • Landscape Architecture:RDG Planning & Design
  • Lighting Design: RDG Planning & Design
  • Wayfinding/Signage: RDG Planning & Design


  • Aqua Products: Cleaners/vacuums
  • Arch Chemicals/Flomotion Systems Inc./Stenner Pumps/Hanovia: Sanitization equipment
  • Aurora Pump/Pentair Water Commercial Pool and Aquatics:Pumps/VFD
  • BECS Technology: Chemical control system
  • Competitor Swim Products / Paragon Aquatics: Lane markers
  • Georg Fischer Signet: Flow meter
  • Lawson Aquatics: Gutters
  • Nemato Corp.: Filters
  • Stark: Bulkheads/
  • Duraflex Intl./Recreation Supply Co./ Dunn Rite Products/Entre Prises USA/Rain Drop Products/ Crystal Fountains:Water-play equipment
  • S.R. Smith/Daktronics/Antiwave/Paragon/ Pulsair Systems Inc.: Competition equipment
  • Spectrum Products/ Paragon Stair & Rail Inc.:Ladders/grab bars
  • Taylor Technologies Inc./Palintest USA: Test kits