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Top 30 College Recreation Centers

Over time, colleges and universities have had to adapt with the development of technology and fitness expectations. We no longer live in a world where school is strictly for education. Academics are not enough to lure prospective students anymore. With the growing fitness and health consciousness, colleges have invested heavily into modernized and improved recreation centers. Physical fitness correlates well with mental fitness. Students who can maintain a consistent fitness routine can reach new heights in their education as well as their daily life.

This is why some school’s recreational centers stand out amongst the thousands throughout the nation. These recreation centers go above and beyond the typical weight rooms and cardio rooms that basic recreation centers have. Leisure pools, climbing walls, lazy rivers, and plenty of outdoor activities are no longer eye popping, they are expected.

Whether you are an experienced athlete or the Average Joe taking his (or her) first step, you should ask yourself what does this university offer me when it comes to my fitness.

At LendEDU, we decided to rank the top 30 recreation centers at colleges and universities in the United States. We used unique ranking metrics to siphon out the schools with the top fitness centers. 

Schools were ranked based on four criteria:

  1. Google Reviews
  2. Available Resources
  3. Intramural and Club Sports
  4. Square Feet Per Student Within the Recreation Center​

Top 30 College Recreation Centers

1) University of Illinois

Activities & Recreation Center

Total Score: 4.72

The University of Illinois takes the top spot on our list. The Activities and Recreation Center was given a 4.4 Google review rating. With a 35-foot climbing wall, 35-person sauna, an ice arena, and multiple indoor tracks, students and faculty have access to one of the more unique recreational centers in the country. At 340,00-square feet, the 30,000 students enrolled have more than enough space to enjoy their exercise on a given day.

2) Ohio State University

Recreation & Physical Activity Center

Total Score: 4.64

Ohio State University received a perfect score in regards to available fitness resources. Some of these resources include the Tom W. David Climbing Center, Recreation Natatorium, bubble seats, a slide for the pool, whirlpool spas and saunas, and paddle board yoga. The climbing center is one of the most equipped in the country offering a climbing wall, overhangs, cliffs, and caves. There is over 90 acres of dedicated recreation facility space on the campus. The facility received a 4.8-star review just missing another perfect score. With 58,663 students, it was certainly no easy task for the university to provide its students with enough fitness material, but the Recreation and Physical Activity Center is the largest measured in this report at 569,459-square feet.

3) Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt Recreation & Wellness Center

Total Score: 4.39

Vanderbilt University takes the third spot in our report. The Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center received a 4.3 rating on Google reviews. Students have access to a climbing wall, fitness loft, bowling lanes, and much more. The center’s mission is to encourage lifelong learning, develop healthy lifestyles, foster leadership, instill an appreciation for diverse communities, and enhance interpersonal relationships. With around 12,500 total students enrolled at the university, the school has offered an enormous center of 290,000-square feet. This ratio is simply unmatched amongst other college recreation centers across the country.

4) University of Akron

Student Recreation & Wellness Center

Total Score: 4.38

Possibly a surprise to some, but the University of Akron being this high up on the list is no mistake. Receiving a 4.6 Google review rating from individuals with first-hand experience at the center, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center is something worth bragging about. Equipped with an enormous 54-foot climbing wall, a 30-person spa, and even a lazy river, students may skip the next family vacation to enjoy these luxury’s for as long as they can. If these resources aren’t for you, the center still offers over 250 pieces of cardiovascular and strength equipment for the typical workout. Totaling 287,332-square feet, this recreation center is one of the six biggest in the report.

5) Auburn University

Recreation & Wellness Center

Total Score: 4.3

Auburn University is widely known to have one of the most impressive recreation centers in the country. The Recreation and Wellness Center is the only one on the list with a perfect Google Review score. It only continues to impress from here with another perfect score for available fitness resources. Students don’t have access to just any climbing wall, they have access to two 50-foot walls. The center offers personal trainers as well as fitness assessments to help students and faculty achieve their goals. Group fitness is encouraged and there are courses as well as rooms available for just that. The 27,287 students enrolled are rewarded with a 240,000-square foot center to help even the laziest of students to get a little fitness into their day.

6) University of Missouri


Total Score: 4.28

At the sixth spot in our report is the University of Missouri. MizzouRec was given a 4.6 Google review rating for its impressive center. This is one of the most unique centers in the entire country. You can find students partaking in fitness activity at the jungle gym, Clark’s boxing gym, the Mizzou Aquatic Center, or the recreation trail. The university even offers a campus beach club where students can play volleyball or take a mental break and relax. The center sits on 286,000-square feet and offers even more across the campus.

7) Eastern Washington University

University Recreation Center

Total Score: 4.26

Eastern Washington University was one of six colleges reviewed that received a double digit square feet per student ratio. This ratio was based off the 150,000-square feet at the University Recreation Center and the 12,361 students enrolled. The center received a 4.2 Google Review ranking, putting it just behind the middle of the pack. Beyond the typical workout equipment, some other resources include an indoor track, basketball and volleyball courts, and an ice rink.

8) Washington University in St. Louis

Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center

Total Score: 4.26

Washington University in St. Louis used its past history to help develop a strong fitness reputation. The Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center is listed at 160,000-square feet. The 14,688 students attending the university have one of the most unique fitness centers in the country. With many of the resources representing the history of the 1904 Olympics, the recreation center has an Olympic studio offering a boot camp, kickboxing, turbokick, energy sculpt, and Zumba. With an increasingly important focus on mental health as well as physical health the center provides its student with Studio 1904, where they can focus on the mind and body. If these studios aren’t enough, then students and faculty may want to check out the Zen Den where they can receive massages.

9) University of Colorado

Student Recreation Center

Total Score: 4.24

The University of Colorado has one of the top five largest recreation centers reviewed. At 300,000-square feet, the Student Recreation Center received a 4.8 review rating. While working out, students can barely tell that they attend a university of more than 32,000 college kids with a recreation center of this size. The university received a high score for its fitness resources thanks to its indoor turf field, climbing wall, wellness suite, and four pools. A challenge course is set up for groups to partake in some physically and mentally challenging tasks as well.

10) Illinois State University

Student Fitness Center

Total Score: 4.02

Illinois State University offers a large 170,000-square foot facility along with 22,000-square feet solely dedicated to cardio, weight training space, fitness studios, an indoor track, and multiple sports courts. This allows the 20,760 students enrolled plenty of space for comfort during their workout. The Student Fitness Center was given a 4.4 review ranking. With an indoor climbing wall, white water rafting, hiking, and skiing, the center received a perfect score when it comes to offering unique resources to its community. Also available is the Big Red Volleyball Competition as well as the Neon at Night 5k.

11) Drexel University

Recreation Center

Total Score: 3.92

Drexel University was voted Philadelphia’s best gym by the Philadelphia Inquirer helping the Recreation Center earn a 4.4 review rating. Students and faculty are provided with a 240,000-square foot facility that offers some resources that simply go unmatched amongst the fitness community. There is nutrition counseling, massage therapy, a Pilates studio, and a climbing wall. Health and Wellness Coaches as well as personal trainers encourage their peers to take advantage of the four-week fitness training boot camp.

12) University of Iowa

Recreation & Wellness Center

Total Score: 3.85

The University of Iowa’s award winning Recreation and Wellness Center is 215,000-square feet and received a 4.5 review rating from its patrons. The center received a perfect score for its unique resources, which included a 52-foot climbing wall, 50-foot competitive pool, 18-foot diving well, and a full length lazy river. Water sports are also available as well as a 25-person spa. The $69.2 million center is simply incredible and a sight to see.

13) Morehead State University

Recreation & Wellness Center

Total Score: 3.74

Morehead State University provides a 101,054-square foot recreation center to its more than 10,000 students and faculty. The Recreation and Wellness Center earned a 4.8 review from its community. The $24 million facility is equipped with a bowling facility, a track, and an outdoor challenge course. Those interested in aquatics can use the competition pool, which is equipped with a zip line as well as a vortex. The bowling facility is unique amongst recreation centers in the country. This helped place Morehead State University where it currently ranks.

14) University of Maryland

Eppley Recreation Center

Total Score: 3.74

The University of Maryland provides its 40,000 students with a beautiful $45 million 229,000-square foot recreation center. If you don’t care much for the possibility of some crowding, then this may be the place for you. The Eppley Recreation Center received a 4.8 review rating from its community as well as a near perfect score for fitness resources. Students and faculty have access to the universities own golf course, climbing wall, high ropes course, and the natatorium. The natatorium consists of a pool, sauna, steam room, and diving boards. Best of all, to combat the possibility of crowding, the center offers a facility usage meter that shows how packed a specific area may be at the current time.

15) University of Maine

New Balance Student Recreation Center

Total Score: 3.65

The University of Maine is one of the few to make the list with a sub 100,000-square foot recreation center. The New Balance Student Recreation Center is exactly 90,000-square feet, but has a large offering to its community. The University of Maine is one of the few campuses to provide off campus hiking equipment for its students as well as an outdoor challenge course. They have an indoor climbing wall, co-ed sauna, and indoor hockey rink to offer for those who prefer to stay on campus. The 4.5 review rating for the facility as well as the strong resources score gave the university a strong boost.

16) University of Alabama

Student Recreation Center

Total Score: 3.64

The University of Alabama, known for its fitness dominance, has a 200,000-square foot recreation center. The Student Recreation Center was given a 4.8 review rating. There are four pools across the campus, a climbing wall, as well as 29 acres of field recreation space. Students are encouraged to partake in outdoor exercise, and to help, the university has set up an outdoor recreation shop where students and others in the community can rent gear.

17) Purdue University

France A. Cordova Recreational Sports Center

Total Score: 3.57

Purdue University’s enormous 355,000-square foot recreation center is the third largest evaluated in this report. The France A. Cordova Recreational Sports Center just missed a perfect review score with a 4.9 rating. The center offers multiple gyms for basketball and/or volleyball, two tracks, and a climbing wall among other resources. For swimmers, there is a competition pool with a diving well along with a recreation pool. With 39,000 students on campus most days, the center provides a usage tracker for the facilities around campus so that students can time when they want to head over.

18) Indiana State University

Student Rec Center

Total Score: 3.54

Indiana State University built a 109,450-square foot recreation center for its 14,000 students and faculty. The Student Recreation Center had one of the higher review ratings of all the centers that made the report with a 4.8. Outside of the typical fitness equipment, the center focuses a lot on personal assistance. Members of the facility have access to a juice bar, personal training, a massage therapy room, and a cycling room. The $21.7 million facility has a strong aquatics program as well with a lap pool, leisure pool, 22-person spa, and water sports.

19) University of Chicago

Gerald Ratner Athletics Center

Total Score: 3.48

The University of Chicago’s $51 million Gerald Ratner Athletics Center was designed by Cesar Pelli, and opened in 2003. The 150,000-square foot center received a 4.6 review rating from its community. In the first year of its opening the facility received awards from the American Council of Engineering Company, the American Institute of Steel Construction, and more. One of the most notable features of the center is the roof, which is suspended by cables that are 100 feet off the ground. The facility features a 50-yard by 25-yard Myers-McLoraine Swimming Pool, a cardio and weight training area, as well as a dance studio.

20) St. Mary’s College of California

Joseph L. Alioto Recreation Center

Total Score: 3.47

St. Mary’s College of California had one of the lower review rankings on the report at 3.9, but made up for this fall off by providing the second highest square feet per student ratio of 14.89. The Joseph L. Alioto Recreation Center isn’t as big as most of the other colleges either at 60,000-square feet, but when you realize this is for only 4,030 students, it seems much larger. Students can use a hydrotherapy spa, climbing wall, and group exercise rooms if they are looking to find a new addition to their fitness plan. The weights and cardio equipment take up about 14,000-square feet.

21) University of Wisconsin

Southeast Recreational Facility

Total Score: 3.34

The University of Wisconsin is home to a 259,000-square foot recreation center. The Southeast Recreational Facility received a 3.8 Google review rating, but we are going to look past that low score, because this facility is soon to be knocked down to build a bigger and better one. The renderings were the result of several feedback sessions with the design firm, members, faculty, students, and the community. This will surely increase the overall view of the facility, because it is being built with the ideas of the individuals using it. The University has courts all over campus for students to use, such as basketball courts, tennis courts, and volleyball amongst others.

22) University of Arizona

Student Recreation Center

Total Score: 3.31

The University of Arizona is home to one of the larger recreation centers in the country. The Student Recreation Center is 210,000-square feet. While the center is massive in size, it must fit upwards of 40,000 students and faculty at any given time, which is the reason it has such a low square feet per student ratio. To help students and faculty find a good time to use the available facilities, the center has cameras showing the activity at each location. This helped the Student Recreation Center earn a 4.7 review rating. Surrounded by endless outdoor activity, the center offers hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, cross country skiing, and more.

23) University of Minnesota

Recreation & Wellness Center

Total Score: 3.24

The University of Minnesota has the lowest square feet per student ratio in the top 30, with 51,000 students using the 175,000-square foot center. The Recreation and Wellness Center received a 4.8 review rating from its community, as well as an above average fitness resources rating. The gym serves 1,000 patrons on an average weekday. With a 24-foot indoor climbing wall and bouldering cave, suspended track, golf course, and dome, the center reaches all fields of fitness.

24) Texas State University

Student Recreation Center

Total Score: 3.18

Texas State University just cracked the top 25, but that doesn’t take anything away from this beautiful facility. With 196,000-square feet, the Student Recreation Center had one of the higher scores for fitness resources. Students have access to aquatic programs, a rock climbing center, boxing studio, and even TRX suspension training. For those who are interested or experienced in golf, the center has a golf course and an indoor golf simulator.

25) University of Cincinnati

Campus Recreation Center

Total Score: 3.15

The University of Cincinnati’s Campus Recreation Center is 200,000-square feet, and received a 4.5 review rating from those with access to it. Students and faculty have access to an indoor climbing wall, suspended track, nutrition coaching, and personal training. If you’re just getting started with working out or just simply prefer to work out in a group, there is small group training available by request.

26) Northern Arizona University

Recreation Center

Total Score: 3.06

Northern Arizona University is home to nearly 30,000 students, many who participate in some form of fitness during their time at the university. The 123,000-square foot Recreation Center is one of the most equipped in the country. Students have access to an indoor track, cardio theater, climbing wall, and multipurpose gyms. There is also a 120,000-square foot aquatic facility on campus as well. The center received a 4.2 Google review rating.

27) Kent State University

Recreation & Wellness Center

Total Score: 2.93

Kent State University has a large recreation center at 153,000-square feet. The Recreation and Wellness Center received a 4.1 review rating from the community, which is slightly lower than the average, but keeps it in a high class. Some of the unique resources include a climbing wall, crooked river adventures, and disc golf. There are two pools as well, one for laps, and another for leisure. For those interested in outdoors, there is an outdoor rental center for all types of gear.

28) University of Idaho

Student Recreation Center

Total Score: 2.88

The University of Idaho’s Student Recreation Center is the second smallest on the report in terms of square feet at 84,000, but relative to its 11,000 students, it has a good square feet per student ratio. The center currently has a 4.6 rating based on reviews by the community. One of the coolest aspects of the center is the 6,000-square foot rock climbing space. It also has personal trainers and plenty of outdoor activities.

29) University of North Dakota

Wellness Center

Total Score: 2.88

The University of North Dakota has a 106,000-square foot recreation center available to its 14,648 students. The Wellness Center was given a 4.6 review rating, putting it ahead of most in this category. The center offers it students basic fitness equipment as well as a rock wall, badminton, and a group exercise room. One thing the facility tries to promote is health and wellness of students. They offer many classes for students to maintain healthy lifestyles.

30) University of South Florida

Campus Recreation Center

Total Score: 2.82

The University of South Florida is home to the 189,000-square foot Campus Recreation Center. Students and faculty can partake in scuba diving with the Blue Grotto Expedition or take advantage of the outdoor mile-long fitness trail. There is also a rope course, kayaking, and disc golf. Taking advantage of the outdoor fitness opportunities is always suggested when in Florida, and this center is no different.


This report was created based off the evaluation of over 150 colleges and universities in the United States with a recreation center. There was a total of four metrics used to determine the overall score of each recreation center. The metrics included Google review rating, available fitness resources, the existence and size of intramural and club sports, and total square feet per enrolled student. Each metric was assigned a maximum score and evaluated on an individual basis. Each individual metric score was then summed together for each respective recreation center. These final scores determined the overall ranking presented in this study.

1) Google Review Rating (1.5 Points Max): When deciding to review the top recreation centers across the country we felt that having a category that focused on real experiences within the centers was important. The ratings used in this report were found through Google reviews. Since the reviews were already based on a 5-point scale they were left as they were. The final score was determined by multiplying each school’s assigned review rating by its metric weight (.3).

2) Available Fitness Resources (1.5 Points Max): The next category that was evaluated was the Available Fitness Resources through the recreation center. The information for this category was collected through the school’s website. Resources reviewed varied between indoor fitness, outdoor fitness, and aquatics. After evaluating the provided resources, each school was given a score between one and five. The final score was determined by multiplying the given score by its metric weight (.3).

3) Intramural and Club Sports (.5 Points Max): This category was given the lowest metric weight. The reason for this was that after evaluation of the top schools nearly all of them offered intramural and club sports. The part that made some more unique then others were the numbers of sports offered and the level of success the teams have had in past competitions. The final score was determined by multiplying the designated score by its metric weight of (.1).

4) Square Feet Per Student (1.5 Points Max): This last category was used to understand the potential crowding within the recreation centers. We collected the number of students enrolled at the campus through Collegexpress, and collected the size of the centers by searching for the building codes. Once these two numbers were collected we divided the total number of enrolled students by the total square feet of the recreation center to get the square feet per student. In order to give these results a score between 1-5, we divvied out the highest score in incriminates of 6 and preceded down until all the schools received a score. The final score was determined by multiplying each center’s assigned score by its metric weight (.3).

Tie Breaker: If two schools ended with the same final score, then the school with the higher category four score was given the advantage as a tiebreaker. This category was used for this purpose due to its consideration of fitness center size. 

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