UCLA students moving onto campus this week before classes start will not only find a newly renovated Saxon Residential Suites, but they’ll also be the first to work out at Bruin Fitness, a new 14,000-square-foot fitness center located on the ground level of Carnesale Commons. Move-in runs Thursday through Sunday. The fall quarter at UCLA begins on Monday, with classes beginning Thursday, Sept. 24.

The upgrades are part of a long-term plan to enhance on-campus living and the undergraduate experience, foster a strong sense of community and encourage healthy living.

“We strive to provide our undergrads on the Hill all the resources necessary to reach their fullest potential,” said Peter Angelis, assistant vice chancellor of housing and hospitality services. The Hill is the location for undergraduate housing at UCLA.

Christelle Snow
A view of the newly renovated Saxon Residential Suites from De Neve Drive.

Student Cesar Robles, a senior majoring in psychology and minoring in public health, thinks the gym is nothing less than “magnificent.”  

“It will provide students the convenience of having a fitness facility close to where they live. … It will allow students to work out at more flexible times since they won’t have to make the long walk to the John Wooden Center, especially during late-night or early-morning hours.”

Robles, one of more than 60 students employed at the new gym as fitness and conditioning consultants, said students will more likely eat healthier because the gym is located right below Bruin Plate, one of the country’s first health-themed college dining halls that specializes in local, fresh, sustainable and unprocessed foods. It’s the only restaurant of its kind west of the Mississippi.

“Hopefully, it’ll motivate more of our student population to actually eat better and be active,” said Robles. “Having a healthy body is important for both mental and physical well-being.” The facility also supports the mission of UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative, which encourages all UCLA community members to make physical and mental well-being a priority.

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Mick DeLuca said the new fitness center, which initially will be open exclusively to undergraduates, will also provide much-needed relief to the Wooden Center. More than 47,000 individuals worked out an average of 40-plus times each between July 2013 and July 2014, Deluca said. Of those using the gym, 82 percent were students, he said.

The new gym boasts a generous amount of space devoted to strength and conditioning, rivaling the Wooden Center; 11-to-14-foot-high ceilings and a garage-door-like side window that will enhance air flow and ventilation. It will be showcased to students on Sept. 25 as part of True Bruin Welcome and UCLA Recreation Day.

“When you consider the robust growth of on-campus housing in combination with the growth of student enrollment, placing a satellite fitness center at the base of where students are living makes perfect sense,” DeLuca said. The campus originally started with four residence halls to house 4,000 students. Today, nearly 12,000 students — a full 40 percent of all undergraduates — live in 15 buildings. By fall 2016, all residence halls will have been built or renovated over the past eight years as part of a strategic plan.   

Farther up in the Hill, Saxon Residential Suites, which houses 400 students, has undergone the first major renovation since it was built more than 30 years ago. Students will now enjoy a new outdoor cinema space, where they can watch films that will be projected onto a new commons building; a barbecue pit; and an LED-lit fireplace pit where students can hang out and relax.

The commons building features study, social and offices spaces and laundry facilities, among other amenities. Saxon also received some much-needed TLC, including the addition of new exteriors, quality-glazed windows, bathroom fixtures and finishes, and new carpeting and wall coverings throughout. New drought-tolerant landscaping surrounds the property.

The physical design of Saxon — suite-style housing without any common hallways, restrooms or lounges — can make it more challenging to build community and engage residents in Saxon life, said Suzanne Seplow, assistant vice chancellor of student development. So the new commons building will provide space for residents to gather for social and educational activities, interact with faculty, study or just relax. “We’ve seen from reopening Hitch Suites with a new commons building last year that it does truly help facilitate community engagement. Residents have provided lots of positive comments about having such a space as part of their living experience,” Seplow said.

Another change is a kitchen remodel at Rendezvous, a dining location specializing in high-quality Mexican and Asian cuisine. The kitchen had been serving twice as many meals than it was designed for.

Renovations are set to begin soon at Delta Terrace, which will be closed for 2015-16. When the building reopens in the fall 2016, all UCLA residence halls will have either been built or renovated over the last seven or eight years. In addition, Hedrick dining hall will be closed for the academic year; With construction beginning in November, it's being transformed into a unique, late-night study lounge that will accommodate up to 400 students and offer convenient coffee, snack and beverage options. Hedrick Study, as it will be known, is scheduled to open in fall 2016.

“Everything we’ve been doing here speaks to our commitment to providing students with the very best opportunities to excel in all aspects of their lives — academically, physically, mentally and socially,” Angelis said. “Living on campus and being close to everything UCLA offers is a real advantage. We want our students to thrive, and to do that, they need the very best environment.”