Physical education, recreation, and athletics have been an important part of a comprehensive undergraduate education at UW-River Falls for more than a century. The HHP program, which was recently cited by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as an exemplary health education model, is the only National Association of Sport and Physical Education accredited K-12 teacher certification program in the State of Wisconsin and one of only a few in the Midwest.
UW-River Falls’ physical education space started out as a small 3,000 square foot gym in South Hall, enhanced by a slightly larger gym and pool in North Hall 20 years later and the Karges Physical Education Center in 1959 when enrollment was 1,200. Since then, enrollment has grown to nearly 6,000 students.
The W.H. Hunt Arena was constructed in 1973 for the hockey program, and the Robert P. Knowles Center was added in 1986 as an indoor field house. In 1989 locker rooms in the Karges Center were remodeled and expanded to meet Title IX requirements. Numerous smaller projects were constructed over the years creating Ramer Field, athletic fields, and the intramural fields complex that is south of the South Fork Kinnickinnic River. To relieve overcrowding, anatomy, kinesiology, and fitness were moved to the Nelson Building when that facility became available in 1983.
In 1994, a comprehensive analysis determined that both quality and quantity of the main instructional and indoor athletic facilities were substandard. A concerted planning effort for a replacement facility occurred in 1999 involving UW-River Falls, UW-System Administration, and the Division of State Facilities staff.
The proposed Health and Human Performance Building project was included in the university's 2001-03, 2003-05, 2005-07, 2007-2009, and 2009-2011 biennial capital budget requests. In April 2004, the Wisconsin Legislature enumerated a $2.2 million project to construct a 14,365 GSF addition to the Hunt/Knowles complex to house locker rooms, training facilities, and associated support spaces. With revisions due to changes in needs, the Wisconsin Legislature enumerated $1,045,000 Building Trust Funds in October, 2007, for pre-planning this major project.