University students returned to campus this week and are enjoying new facilities at Texas Woman's University and the University of North Texas.
TWU built a new Fitness and Recreation Center that will officially open Monday along with the first day of classes.
UNT built a new parking garage to make up for surface parking that was lost when it built the new Business Leadership Building.
TWU students preview new recreation center
More than 70 TWU students filled a group exercise room on the second floor of the new $15.5 million fitness center Thursday to Zumba.
The group of freshmen participated in the aerobic exercise class based on Latin dance, as part of a preview of the new center during Pioneer Camp, a program to welcome incoming students.
Ricky Ruiz and Robert DuBay, TWU freshmen, watched the Zumba class from the doorway.
Both are excited to try out the new facility.
"I can't wait till it opens," DuBay said.
Ruiz said he's ready to come to the gym and get "beefed up."
Graciela Hernandez, a freshman studying nursing, also stood outside and watched the class.
She wasn't ready to join in, but she plans to come to the fitness center to work out during the semester.
"It makes you want to come here and exercise," she said.
The new 40,000-square-foot facility is more than double the space of the previous fitness center, which was housed on the bottom floor of Jones Hall.
The new facility also is brighter and more open than the previous space.
Lindsey Hatter, who graduated from TWU in 2006 and is now an assistant director of the Center for Student Development, said the previous fitness center was in a space that was converted from dorm rooms.
She said students voted in 2006 to add a $75 fee to pay for a new fitness center.
"I feel like this facility was built with the students in mind," Hatter said.
A lounge sits near the entrance and will be an area where students can study, watch TV or play games, said John Cissik, director of TWU fitness and recreation.
The facility has a weight room, cardiovascular workout area, gymnasium and 30-foot climbing wall.
The 9,000-square-foot workout room has cardio equipment, strength training equipment and free weights.
Previously, students had to use the gym where athletes practice. Now there is a gym for general use for students who want to play basketball, volleyball, badminton and pingpong.
Both the basketball and volleyball courts are NCAA-size.
"This place, I think, will be packed starting around 6 p.m.," Cissik said of the gym.
There are three group exercise rooms - one on the first floor and two on the second.
Cissik said the roof over the first story can be added onto.
"If we keep growing like we have, we'll fill this place up," he said.
UNT opens new parking garage
Thursday was UNT's first day of classes and students were still deciding which parking option was best for them - surface parking or the new 953-space parking garage.
Jessica Mays, a UNT junior, was stopping by the parking offices to make her decision.
"Parking is a pain in the butt," she said.
She said she's been parking at the meters until she buys her permit, but the meter often expires before she gets out of class.
She said she was trying to figure out whether paying for access to the parking garage is worth it.
It costs $350 for a semester pass or $850 for a year compared with general parking, which is $135, or resident parking, which is $250.
The rates for the Highland Street Garage are the same as the Union Circle Garage.
Blair Johnston, a UNT freshman, said her parents wanted her to use the garage to protect her car, despite the price difference.
The walk from the garage to where she lives at Kerr Hall is short, she said.
About 400 people used the garage Thursday, said Joe Richmond, director of parking and transportation services.
The $20 million Highland Street Garage officially opened Monday and Richmond said it's increasingly gotten busy.
Hourly rates start at $2.
There are also reserve spots available on the first floor of the garage, which cost about $1,575 a year, Richmond said.
He said mostly faculty and staff have been using the reserved spots at this point.
"The whole idea is to take the pressure off the surface parking," he said.
He said it will also be useful to visitors, who can park in the lot and then visit the parking offices, which are now located in the new garage, for information on where they need to go.
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .