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UW–Madison has no shortage of neat buildings, but few have a story as heartwarming — or features as meaningful — as the Nicholas Recreation Center. The building — “the Nick,” for short — is named for the project’s lead donors: lifelong Badger fans and philanthropists Albert “Ab” Nicholas ’52, MBA’55; his wife, Nancy ’55; and their family. The Nick replaced the outdated and overcrowded Southeast Recreational Facility (SERF), a decades-old concrete giant that sat next to the Kohl Center. The SERF had a big footprint — a gross square footage of 192,170. The Nick, which opened in May 2018, expanded on that by nearly 50,000, growing to a gross square footage of 240,560. The Nick also upped the usable square footage: whereas about 65 percent of the SERF was usable, nearly 71 percent of the Nick is. The fitness-specific square footage also increased more than threefold — from a mere 8,500 to 30,400.

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