Posted October 16, 2019
The Falcon Center, the $65 million recreational and athletic facility that opened in September 2017, has been “transformational,” says UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen.
The idea for the Falcon Center was developed nearly 25 years ago. Since its opening, according to the chancellor, the center has had a significant impact on students, faculty and the community of River Falls.
In its most basic form, the goal of the Falcon Center was to improve the lives of every individual who uses its facilities.
The Falcon Center had to address three specific goals if it was going to have success in River Falls. The first area that it was designed to address was academics and health and human performance.
Although the Falcon Center is often credited with being a state-of-the-art athletic facility, it also hosts classes daily, similar to a traditional academic building that can be found on campus. According to the UWRF website, the Falcon Center is home to three undergraduate degrees along with two graduate degrees that students can pursue.
Academic degrees that are headquartered in the Falcon Center give students access to facilities that were not available 15 years ago. Students can now work with an individualized fitness center and an exercise science lab. They also have the opportunity to get involved with sports teams that call the Falcon Center home, which includes Don Page Arena and Hunt Arena. Students’ experience working and studying at the Falcon Center will prepare them for careers in coaching, physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Since the opening in 2017, the Falcon Center also has been used as a tool for recruiting future Falcon athletes. In a May interview, Noah Wing, the former director of football operations and recruiting, said that the Falcon Center helped build the athletic programs at UWRF.
“The ability to open that new facility and sort of build our recruiting classes around some of the great things that we had going there was so much fun,” Wing said.
With the state-of-the-art facilities that are offered by the Falcon Center, coaches for school-sponsored programs were able to recruit players that otherwise would likely not have attended UWRF.
According to Wing, since the Falcon Center was opened in 2017 it has been used to recruit higher caliber players to play football — among other sports. Since 2017, the football roster has gathered players from around the world, in part due to the first-rate facility where those players will spend the majority of their time.
According to the UWRF website, the men’s football team has players who have come from Nevada, Arizona, and Germany. Athletics at UWRF have been fundamentally changed because of the addition of the Falcon Center.
However, Van Galen said he believes the greatest impact of the Falcon Center could be something besides the aforementioned reasons.
“The third piece of it, which, in the end, may be the most transformational, is the opportunities for fitness and recreation for all of our students,” Van Galen said. “Some recent data regarding open rec shows that we had 4,641 users of the fitness center last year. Most of that would be students. And visits — 139,000 visits.”
Data is starting to emerge that shows just how much of a positive change the Falcon Center has had.
“Campus Recreation has done a great job of reaching out and bringing the community to that building in many ways. Obviously, community members attend events there such as athletic events. They can have memberships at the fitness center,” Van Galen said. “But you look at the skating school, look at birthday parties at the rock-climbing wall. Through the work of our staff, it’s being viewed as a community asset for River Falls and really, the St. Croix Valley. It’s very important for the university to ensure the public feels welcome on our campus and the Falcon Center is one way to do that.”
Van Galen said that he is pleased with how Campus Recreation has grown programming at the Falcon Center since it opened. One program that Steve Stocker, the director of Campus Recreation, has grown over the past couple of years is rock climbing.
“We have seen the growth,” Stocker said. “The first year we were under 1,000. The second year we grew that to 1,800. In the third year, last year, we had 2,900 distinct climbers. So, our participation has increased.”
The growth of the participation in rock climbing directly addresses one of the target goals of the Falcon Center: fitness and recreation for all students who attend UWRF. The accessibility of the Falcon Center paired with the quality of the facility has allowed for the growth that is being tracked by UWRF.
The community also has shown more involvement since the opening of the facility in 2017.
“We’re doing a lot more reservations,” Stocker said. “We had 72 reservations last year on the climbing wall alone, which is up from a year before of 50, and the year before that it was about 15.”
The addition of the Falcon Center to the UWRF campus cannot be understated. It has been the catalyst for growth in academics, athletics and the personal health of students and community members in the greater River Falls area.