Wellness Center Grand Opening Feb. 1

Construction workers are reflected in the northern glass wall of USDs new Wellness Center Tuesday as the scaffolding they are standing on is lowered from the buildings roof. Personnel are busy putting the finishing touches on the structures exterior to prepare it for its grand opening Tuesday. (Photo by David Lias)

The University of South Dakotas new Wellness Center is already a hub of new activity, with Vermillion townsfolk and university students already utilizing the state-of-the-art facility as warmly dressed construction personnel work up a sweat finishing the final touches to the building.

The new structure will officially be welcomed as the newest building on the USD campus at its grand opening, at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

The grand opening includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony along with a rock climbing wall demonstration and tours of the $15 million, 61,000 square foot facility. Refreshments will also be provided following the ceremony, which is open to the public.

The Wellness Center provides our students with an extraordinary venue for recreation, health and fitness whether students are playing intramural sports or working out on their own, said James L. Parker, dean of students. Everyone is extremely excited for the grand opening of this facility as it is further evidence of our commitment to students that we are enhancing the overall campus experience at USD.

Located directly north of the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts building, the Wellness Center is the campus hub of recreation at USD with personal training and group fitness opportunities, intramural sports and a climbing wall that stands 38-feet tall, features 4,300 hold combinations and nine rope stations. In addition, the Wellness Center features two racquetball courts, multiple recreation courts for basketball and volleyball, group fitness studios for aerobics, Pilates and yoga, a three-lane walking/jogging track, locker rooms; and state-of-the-art workout equipment, including exercise bicycles, elliptical machines and a large weight room filled with treadmills and strength training equipment.

Use of the Wellness Center is free for students with a USD I.D. It is also open to members of the community offering single, couple and family monthly and annual memberships. Daily guest passes are also available at the door. Hours of operation are 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday; and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The Wellness Center offers more than just fitness and recreation; its an opportunity for students to improve their lifestyle and create balance outside of the classroom, added Parker, who noted that 2,802 people used the Wellness Center during its first day of public operation, Monday, Jan. 17. Creating healthy living habits and maintaining good physical and mental health for our students is definitely a priority for us.

Groundbreaking for the new facility was held Oct. 26, 2009. At that time, the roar of powerful backhoes echoed in the background, making it apparent that the early stages of preparing the building site, located north of the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts, for the construction process was well under way.

The new facility follows a study conducted by a Wellness Center Planning Committee formed in 2007 by USD President James Abbott to determine the best way to offer student fitness on the campus.

The survey showed that USD wellness equipment in the DakotaDome was unsatisfactory to students. The new center solves many of the problems that made the DakotaDome facilities inadequate for the student population and the Vermillion community

The new building is better able to handle expected usage patterns, it offers more convenient times of operation, and as former Athletic Director Joel Nielsen noted at its groundbreaking in 2009, it will be a beautiful building, serving as a showpiece for everyone entering from the north end of the campus.

Nielsen noted at the time that recruitment of new students and retention of those already attending USD are two critical goals of the institution and the new building will assist with both.

Abbott noted at the groundbreaking ceremony that he had proposed remodeling the 17,000-square-foot Continuing Education Center, a campus building without any load-bearing walls in its interior, and transform it into a student fitness center.

Our students, after politely listening to what I had to say, said Absolutely not. This is not what we want. We want a state-of-the-art building that allows us to do everything that we want to do, and thanks to the students, thats exactly what were going to have, he said.

The new facility, Abbott added back in October 2009, is symbolic of efforts to make the University of South Dakota an extraordinary university, both academically and in terms of facilities.

The wellness center is a major addition, but its function is just the same as is every building on this campus to serve our students, he said. Were looking forward to the completion of this facility, and thanks to the diligence of a committed campus community, especially our students, those very same students will have their own state-of-the-art fitness center.

The $15 million center is almost entirely being paid for by students through a $9.75 per credit hour hike in tuition.

The city of Vermillion and the university have also entered into a membership use agreement for the center, calling for the city to contribute $340,000 over five years beginning in the fall of 2010.

RDG Planning and Design, the architectural firm that designed the center, left room for growth in the structures plans, designing the building so that it could one day expand from its 61,000 square feet to 125,000 square feet.

The design allows for the future construction of additional gymnasiums and wellness facilities. It will be a facility that can grow in the future to meet the needs of both the university and the Vermillion community.

A predicted strong community use of the facility prompted designers to include the ability to expand the building as the need for more space arises.

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