If the wait for the new phase of the Rec Cen didn’t already have students climbing the walls, the newly opened expansion now offers the tallest indoor imprint climbing wall on the West Coast.

Following 21 months of construction, the $15 million project — dubbed “Rec Cen 2” by planners — opened its doors for the first time Monday morning. The building, which is located immediately behind the pre-existing Rec Cen, offers students a multi-activity court — for indoor hockey, soccer or lacrosse — as well as a 7,000-square foot weight room, aerobic studio, pottery kiln and climbing wall.

Though UCSB will pay for the project with a loan, the money will be repaid by Rec Cen Expansion lock-in fees, which students reaffirmed in the 2003 Spring Quarter campuswide election. Currently, students pay $60 per quarter in Rec Cen-related fees. Wayne Horodowich, the Rec Cen building director, said he is pleased with student reaction to the expansion.

“Everything I’ve heard so far has been 100 percent positive,” Horodowich said. “The climbing wall has been tremendously popular.”

The 30-foot imprint rock wall differs from regular rock walls in that climbers use attachable handles and footholds to scale it. Daniel Kovner, a freshman biology major, said he appreciated how much better the new wall was compared with other climbing structures in the county.

“This is a tall wall,” Kovner said. “As far as Santa Barbara goes — maybe even in San Luis Obispo — it’s the biggest climbing facility around.”

Jonathan Tu, a senior English major who also chairs the Rec Cen Governance Board, said he was particularly impressed with the facility’s multipurpose court.

“I’m ecstatic,” Tu said. “This is a state-of-the-art court. The possibilities are ridiculous.”

Tu also said the arena was particularly well suited for indoor hockey because it is shielded with shatterproof glass panels and netting that prevents pucks from flying off the court. These barriers, Tu said, would protect bystanders and save his club roller hockey team money in lost pucks.

The new facility will employ about 30 students, but one of its non-student employees is Blair Hoover, a UCSB graduate who was among the students who successfully lobbied for the construction of the Rec Cen back in 1992. Hoover said his position as the expansion’s building manager will allow him to experience being part of the Rec Cen in a way he never would as a UCSB student.

“It feels good,” Hoover said. “They actually finished construction on the Rec Cen the quarter I left. I had to join as a paying member of the community.”

Before the Rec Cen, the student recreational facilities provided at UCSB consisted solely of the “weight shack,” a 20-by-60 room that was only open to general students three hours a day. The additional recreational space the expansion provides will has also allowed Rec Cen directors to modify a part of the pre-existing Rec Cen.

“One of the suggestions we’ve got for years now was to make the weight rooms more accommodating for women,” Horodowich said. “A lot of the women felt it was kind of a testosterone factory and they didn’t feel quite comfortable in there.”

The changes include more exercise balls, balance boards and an adjustment in workout machines to better suit women.

Workers first broke ground on the project in June 2003. Though a materials shortage postponed the grand opening of the expansion several months after its target opening date — October 2004 — Horodowich said the delays gave construction workers a certain advantage.

“It’s hard to put up a roof before the walls,” he said. “But when the delays pushed construction into the rainy season, we could find leaks and then have the construction people repair them while they were still here.”

Tu said despite the delays, he was glad students could finally take advantage of the expansion.

“I think everybody should have a look,” he said. “It’s just a beautiful facility.”