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The Way We Were: UHD’s Fitness Past and Evolution


By Hayden Bergman

This article is the first installment of a yearlong series marking UHD’s 50th anniversary. We will look at the University’s past and reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we might go in the future.  


50th ann column #1 3With the holidays behind us, we can probably recall at least one time during a family party or dinner when an older relative told us a story about how difficult things were back in the day—walks to school in the snow, uphill both ways—we’ve all heard such tales. The UHD alumni version of this might be something like, we used to play soccer in the parking lot. That last one would be the truth, however, as Gator students didn’t always have the award-winning Wellness & Success Center (WSC) to use for physical activity and fun. They didn’t have a facility at all, it turns out! 

50th ann column #1 4In the UHD Six Year Development Plan (back then UHD was called the University of Houston Downtown College), the lack of workout or wellness space is laid out plainly: “There are no on-campus physical education facilities.” As you can see from the photos in this article (researched with the generous assistance of the UHD Archive and Special Collections staff), students back in the 1980s had to get creative if they wanted to work out or play games like soccer. That didn’t change until 1997, when the Jesse Jones Student Life Center opened and provided a place for students to exercise. The WSC replaced the Student Life Center in 2023. 

Now, Gators now can access the WSC and all the resources it offers: weight and cardio training equipment, a bouldering wall, an indoor running track, as well as exercise classes, basketball and volleyball courts, and lounge and study areas. Also on offer are club sports, intramural sports, nutrition classes, and massages.  

So. If the next time you’re at an alumni event you overhear some version of the back in my day, just remember: They just might be telling the truth!

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.