In 1994, Dr. Ronald Carrier, JMU’s fourth president, and other university leaders broke ground for construction to begin on the James Madison University Recreation Center. The project included a synthetic turf field, which was the first synthetic field designated for recreational use on campus.

The first Director of University Recreation, Eric Nickel, was hired in 1995, and the Grand Opening of UREC was held in 1996. Two years later, the Climbing Wall was added to the UREC Atrium. The new facility was awarded the Athletic Business Facility of Merit Award in 1997 and the NIRSA Outstanding Sports Facility Award in 2000.

In 2008, UREC’s Upper Turf opened, which provided much needed field space for the Intramural and Sport Club programs. Later that year, Dr. Linwood Rose, JMU’s fifth president, approved the planning and construction of University Park. That same year, then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke on the UREC Lower Turf, prior to a campaign event in the Convocation Center. 2010 marked the ground-breaking for University Park, and that same year, the first cohort of JMU’s Campus Recreation Leadership concentration master’s degree students graduated.

University Park opened in 2012, with the Disc Golf Course and TEAM Challenge Course facilities projects being completed a year later. In 2012, UREC assumed responsibilities for East Campus Fields and added an Archery Range in 2013. A synthetic multi-purpose turf field was installed on the East Campus site in 2014.

In January 2016, UREC’s facility addition opened, effectively doubling the building size, and in August of that same year, renovations were completed on the original 1996 building to re-purpose spaces to create dynamic new spaces including an adventure center, wellness center, demonstration kitchen, food service operation, a meditation/mindfulness space and a wet/dry classroom. Jon Alger, JMU’s sixth president, spoke at the Grand Re-Opening and 20th Anniversary Celebration in October 2016. In 2017, the facility was awarded the NIRSA Outstanding Sports Facility Award.

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