South Campus Recreation Facility Oxford, MS

Project Category : College/University

Total Construction Cost : $24,723,407

Total Gross Square Feet : 121,783

Approximate Cost Per Square Foot : 203

How was the facility funded? : Government funds

Project Description:

Ole Miss South Campus Recreation Center

A new anchor for South Campus Located on the University of Mississippi's (Ole Miss) South Campus, the new recreation facility pioneers the university's plans for future growth across the highway from main campus by serving as an iconic anchor project that will inspire and set the architectural precedent for the next several decades of campus growth.

The project converts an abandoned Whirlpool manufacturing plant - and the adjacent vacant lot that was only used for parking on game days - into a high-energy, expansive new fitness space that provides opportunities that were not available at the current recreation center. The project has transformed student life through dramatically increased visits and engagement with campus recreation with a newly reimagined space boldly embraces fitness, wellness and a connection to nature.

Functional Planning

The project features:

  • More than 22,300-sq.-ft. of open fitness space;
  • 6,250-sq.-ft. of indoor and outdoor functional training, including turf and a slam wall;
  • Two basketball courts;
  • A multi-purpose activity court;
  • Three multipurpose studios;
  • A jogging track; climbing and bouldering walls;
  • An indoor ropes course (future addition);
  • A demonstration kitchen and wellness suite;
  • An outdoor recreation suite;
  • An administrative suite;
  • And two recreational fields for intramural use directly adjacent to the building.

The approach to the project hinges on the reality that the most sustainable building is the building you already have. The existing Whirlpool plant structure was purchased by the school years prior, and sat untouched. In exploring options for repurposing the building, the design team suggested its high volumes and open plan would lend itself well to a recreation facility, allowing for visual connections between all fitness neighborhoods within the building and a bright, airy space. The openness of the building's existing footprint resulted in a very efficient environment. A mezzanine level was added to maximize the amount of useable space within the existing warehouse.

The renovated facility also houses the offices of the Department of Parking and Transportation and provides space for the park and ride bus locations. The new South Campus Recreation Center and Transportation Hub truly provides students with a central hub for accessing student activities while encouraging healthy living at the University of Mississippi. A large exterior porch and central lobby provide a key connection point between the parking and transportation hub and recreation center.

Interior Design

In order to provide a strong indoor, outdoor connection, the existing walls of the warehouse were removed and replaced with glazing in strategic areas to provide light deep into the fitness areas.

The existing dock doors were removed and windows were added to bring natural light into the basketball and MAC courts. Because of the sheer size of the space, Solatube Skylights helped draw additional light into the center of the building. The project celebrates Ole Miss's distinctive brand and colors, with creative secondary light blue accents throughout. Industrial detailing speaks to the building's original warehouse function. Additional design features include a 35' rubber slam wall, a colorful climbing wall and an expansive metal wall in the entry with a map of Oxford. Additional large-scale graphics reinforce the university's brand while creating interesting focal points that help define the massive space.

Exterior Design

What was once a faceless concrete box made of tilt-up precast panels underwent a selective and strategic approach to transformation. Panels on the north and west sides of the building were pulled and replaced to create transparency and maximize natural light while creating an energetic indoor/outdoor functional training zone with high-performance turf. Where precast panels remained, they were energized with an iconic graphic swoosh that provides character and creates a unique focal point for passersby. On the northwest side of the building, the box-like warehouse space was infilled with a dramatic curtainwall that showcases the fitness programs and activities within, including the distinctive red stripe on the jogging track. The entry experience celebrates the building's volume with distinctive, angular pillar supports and a splash of red. For students and stakeholders alike, the reimagined exterior helps the repurposed building feel brand new.


The site presented numerous challenges - namely that it sat across the highway from the center of campus. However, the university has plans for a future bridge, providing valuable pedestrian connections to the space. In addition, more than 2/3 of the university's students reside off campus, many within one mile of South Campus, so the project utilizes the site's location and proximity to the student body to generate traffic. The park and ride location further helps to attract students from the main campus, transforming what was expected to be a secondary campus recreation space into the most visited, and desired, facility at Ole Miss. In addition, the site is in close proximity to mountain bike trails and new recreation fields, giving students the opportunity to embrace recreation, wellness and this convenient connection to nature.


The project gave students and administrators more for less. The project cost just under $25 million to build, and the cost per square foot amounted to $203, making it one of the most affordably-built or renovated recreation facilities of this size and scale in recent years. The project required the design team to completely transform a dilapidated, windowless warehouse into a light-filled, vibrant recreation space. By reusing the existing building, the project experienced cost benefits as resources were dedicated largely to the interior space. The existing structure, exterior precast panels, floor slab and roof decking were used; yet, plumbing, HVAC and insulation had to be added, as well as large, floor-to-ceiling windows that aided in the buildings transformation from warehouse to wellness destination.

Since the project opened, visits to the campus recreation facilities increased by more than 70 percent, with nearly two thirds of all recreation facility visits occurring at the South Campus Recreation Center. There has been a 30 percent year to year increase in community and alumni memberships. Finally, since opening, the project has broken departmental records for participant visits in a single day, single week and single month.

Floor Plans