Newly constructed group exercise studios open in Hilltop for spring semester

Cycling studio and multipurpose room replace bowling alley


Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

The new studio space hosts a wide variety of group exercise programs, from cycling to Barre to yoga. All group exercises classes are free with presentation of a Blugold ID card.

Lingering construction tools indicate a changing Hilltop Center — the studios’ dumbbells and stationary bikes have replaced the ball returns and faded neon décor that used occupy the space next to the Billiard Center.

With their construction nearly completed, two group exercise studios opened for an evening cycling class on Monday night in the Hilltop Center.

“It’s going to be really nice to have this wide-open space,” Brittney Wold said as she stood in the middle of one of the new studios.

Wold is the UW-Eau Claire Recreation and Sport Facilities wellness coordinator whose duties include directing the university’s group exercise program. Wold said she is excited about the studios’ new location and hopes it will encourage more students to participate in classes.

Fall 2017 cycling classes were held inside the racquetball courts at the McPhee Center during Hilltops’ construction. Wold said that holding classes inside the courts was “challenging” but thankfully temporary.

On Monday morning, before their debut, Wold walked through the two new rooms.

“Hilltop Studio” is a multipurpose room. It is complete with a wooden bar, a large set of dumbbells and colorful exercise balls. Cubbies will be added, Wold said, and more dumbbell racks assembled.

The cycling studio is arranged in a way that echoes the old Crest Wellness Center studio: the stationary bikes form a grid, standing at attention to the instructor’s bike at the front of the room. Wold said that the speakers around the room create surround-sound.

The “Hilltop Studio” is connected to the cycling studio by a storage closet filled with yoga mats and more exercise balls.

The studios will house an array of classes: cycling, Barre, HIIT, yoga and Zumba are a few of the classes returning to the studios. Wold said she also plans to host fitness certification and BOSU classes later this spring.

Zoe Bellis, a first-year mathematics and physics education student, said a new location central to upper campus might inspire more students to try out a class.

“I think it will help (participation) a little bit,” Bellis said. “It’s closer than McPhee.”

The Hilltop Bowling Alley functioned from 1969 to August 2017. Andrew Jepsen, director of Eau Claire’s Reaction and Sport Facility, said the decision to reconstruct the bowling alley was product of the facility’s decreasing popularity.

The Student Senate and Recreation Advisory Committee approved the project, and the reconstruction began in August. Meanwhile, the Karlgaard Towers Hall renovation project displaced the Housing and Residence Life administrative offices, which found a new permanent home in the Crest Wellness Center in the place of the old group exercise studio.

Jepsen said he does not have a total cost estimate for the project.  

Eventually, Hilltop Center will be only used for recreation, as dictated by the 2010-2030 Campus Master Plan.

Across from existing rooms, a third space is still in progress.

“In that unfinished space, we plan to develop a bouldering cave and an Environmental Adventure Center rental space,” Jepsen said. He expects the cave and center to be completed late this summer.

Wold said any student, faculty or staff member can see the new studios themselves by attending any group exercise class for free with their Blugold ID card. Group exercise class schedules can be found around campus or online on the group exercise Facebook page.