In June 1997, John Moores, University of Houston (UH) alumnus and former member of the UH System Board of Regents, flew Chancellor Arthur K. Smith and his wife June, Regent Eduardo Aguirre, Jr. several UH administrators and a couple of student leaders to San Diego State University to view its new recreation center. The trip served as a motivator to further explore the recreation needs on the UH campus, something that had been talked about off and on for over 20 years. On September 1, 1997, the UH Intramural program moved from the Department of Athletics to the Division of Student Affairs under the leadership of Dr. Elwyn Lee, Vice President of Student Affairs, and Dr. William Munson, Assistant Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students. The first meeting of the Campus Intramural and Recreation Advisory Committee was held on November 18, 1997; it was chaired by Dr. Kathleen Anzivino, the new Director of Campus Activities and Recreation.
After reviewing hundreds of slides of various recreation facilities and touring seven facilities in Texas and Louisiana the advisory committee made a recommendation to bring Brailsford & Dunlavey Facility Planning Consultants to the University for a one-day visit/assessment exercise. Their report resulted in a decision to do a more comprehensive analysis. During the summer and early fall of 1998, Brailsford & Dunlavey returned to campus to conduct focus groups, intercept interviews and comprehensive survey. Based on the survey results, a decision was made to conduct a Student Referendum asking for the adoption of a new fee to support the construction and operation of a recreation facility. The Recreation 2000 Committee led by UH students Trina Powe and Rick Dilleshaw planned the activities leading up to the Referendum vote. This included an information brochure widely distributed across campus, articles in The Daily Cougar, information tables across campus, and open forums to discuss the issues. The goal of the Referendum 2000 Committee was to educate students on the upcoming vote and ensure a high voting turnout. After two days of voting, November 17 and 18, 1998, with almost 5000students voting, the students approved a $75/semester fee effective the semester the facility opened.
Legislative approval for the new fee was granted in spring 1999. Hughes Group Architects of Sterling, Virginia, was selected as the lead design architects. They teamed up with Bricker + Cannady Architects, a Houston based firm, and design began in January 2000.
The Recreation Advisory Committee stayed involved during the design process, providing input on how to best meet the recreational needs of the UH community. In June 2000, the Project Planning Guide went to the University of Houston System Board of Regents for approval and then to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for its approval. A selection process was then conducted that ultimately brought Pepper Lawson Construction to the project team.
During the spring 2001 semester, the project team carefully reviewed the design documents and cost estimate reports until the final decisions on what to build were made. On April 20, 2001, the formal Ground Breaking Ceremony was held and in May 2001 the actual construction began. On January 13, 2003, the doors of the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center opened to the UH community.