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DWU board authorizes wellness center project

Dakota Wesleyan University announced Thursday that it plans to break ground this fall on a new two-story, 90,000-square-foot health and wellness center to be built on the south side of the school’s campus in Mitchell.

DWU has already raised $10 million for the project, which will be used to pay for the construction of the new facility, and intends to raise another $5 million to be used to renovate the school’s current athletic facility, the Christen Family Wellness Center, and to pay for operating expenses.

DWU President Amy Novak said the project has been a priority since she was named the school’s president nearly a year ago.

“I’ve watched our student athletes in pretty confined spaces make workouts possible,” Novak said in an interview with members of the media following Thursday’s announcement. “It’s exciting to be able to give this to them and to the community.”

The new facility will include a 200-meter indoor track surrounding three multipurpose courts, 7,000 square feet of space for exercise equipment and fitness training, a wrestling room, locker rooms, additional space for strength and conditioning, and classrooms for seminars and leadership training. It will be located on the south side of Norway Avenue across from the school’s current practice fields.

“Our students need and deserve a facility in which they can pursue their athletic aspirations as well as personal wellness,” Novak said in a speech to students and staff at DWU on Thursday.

The renovations to Christen Family Athletic Center, expected to cost approximately $2 million, will include upgrades to the heating and cooling units, expansions of the weight room, athletic training space and office space for coaches and athletic trainers, and a remodel of the large locker room spaces.

The new health and wellness center is expected to be completed by January 2016, Novak said.

DWU has been actively fundraising for the project since last fall, and Novak said the support the school’s donors have shown for the project has been tremendous.

“It speaks to the fact that people see this as a real need, both for the university and the community,” she said.

DWU Athletic Director Curt Hart said many other schools in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, of which DWU is a member, have modern athletic training facilities. This project, he said, will greatly benefit the school’s athletic programs.

“Everywhere we go, our student-athletes see the facilities they have,” Hart said, referring to other GPAC schools. “It’s hard sometimes to recruit without being able to have that facility to show them.”

Hart said he was impressed by the eagerness of donors to support the project.

“They realized we needed this facility,” he said. “This really completes our campus.”

Novak said the new health and wellness center will be open to the general public on a membership basis.

Since 2003, DWU has spent at least $28.5 million on major building projects, including most recently the $11.5 million Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center, a 48,000-square-foot building that opened in August.

The completion of that project gave the school momentum as it moved forward with its plans for a new health and wellness center, Novak said.

“That momentum spun very positively for us,” she said.

The city of Mitchell and Avera Queen of Peace Hospital have each also shown interest in building a new health and wellness center since at least 2007 and have discussed forming a three-way partnership with DWU for such a project. Neither have contributed to the money that’s already been raised for this project, according to Mitchell Mayor Ken Tracy and Avera Queen of Peace Regional President and CEO Tom Clark.

“I know (DWU) has had a long-standing desire to have a facility like this, and it’s great to see that it’s going to come fruition,” Tracy said. “It’s going to be a great asset for DWU and for the whole community.”

Clark said he was thrilled by DWU’s plans for a new health and wellness center.

“I think it’s very visionary,” Clark said. “It fills a huge need they have for their campus and I think it creates huge opportunities for the community to leverage that as an asset.”