UW–Madison has no shortage of neat buildings, but few have as heartwarming of a story 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 The Nick replaced the outdated and overcrowded Southeast Recreational Facility (SERF), a decades-old concrete giant that sat next to the Kohl Center.
There’s a quote from the musical Hamilton that says a legacy is “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see,” and that’s what the Nick is to Ab Nicholas. He passed away in 2016 during the planning phases; the building opened on September 14, 2020. Ab truly embodied the Wisconsin Idea, so it’s no surprise that the building named for his legacy does the very same. From environmental efforts to experiential upgrades, here are 10 facts about the remarkable Nicholas Recreation Center.