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WITH VIDEO: DWU/Avera wellness complex source of pride for school, community

Dreams do come true. That was the message during Thursday's dedication ceremony for the DWU/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex. "This is a great day to be a Tiger," Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy Novak said to applause. More than 600 peo...

Dakota Wesleyan President Dr. Amy Novak speaks during the dedication ceremony for the DWU/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex on Thursday morning in the Corrigan Fieldhouse inside the complex. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan President Dr. Amy Novak speaks during the dedication ceremony for the DWU/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex on Thursday morning in the Corrigan Fieldhouse inside the complex. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Dreams do come true.

That was the message during Thursday's dedication ceremony for the DWU/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex.

"This is a great day to be a Tiger," Dakota Wesleyan University President Amy Novak said to applause.

More than 600 people filed into the complex's fieldhouse for the morning event, which featured speeches, music, a ribbon cutting and self-guided tours of the facility. The new facility opened in January, but was dedicated Thursday in a ceremony that paid tribute to the donors, officials and partners who helped bring about the new facility.

The complex has long been a priority for school officials. Novak said just eight hours after she was announced as the successor to former university president Bob Duffett's resignation in 2013, Novak got an email from DWU Athletic Director Curt Hart.

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Hart wanted to get together to figure out how the university could build a new sport and wellness complex.

"For those of you who know Curt, you know he doesn't sleep much," Novak said with a smile. "Neither of us could face another year of watching students run hurdles through the halls, swing golf clubs in the weight room or simply rolling up wrestling mats after every practice."

"Well, I may not sleep, but I do dream," Hart said in response. "No matter how old you are, never give up your dream. Dreams can and do still come true."

Hart said the wellness complex should be a source of excitement and pride for the donors, students, staff, alumni and prospective students. He said it will change the landscape of the university and Mitchell, describing the impact as "endless."

The $10.7 million health and wellness center measures a little under 90,000 square feet, and sits across the street from DWU's campus, on the south side of Norway Avenue. The wellness complex houses the 4,000-square-foot Donna and Paul Christen Community Health and Fitness Center, under management by GreatLife Malaska Golf and Fitness club; men's and women's locker rooms; an athletic training suite, in partnership with Avera Queen of Peace; a classroom, fully equipped wrestling room, lounge and concessions area; and the Glenda and Fritz Corrigan Fieldhouse, which includes a 200-meter running/walking track, three sport courts, facilities for long jump, pole vault and batting practice, and bleacher seating for up to 700 people.

Hart called the facility's dedication a "historic day" for DWU, and joined Novak and Brad Pratt, chairman of the DWU Board of Trustees, in thanking those who contributed to the facility's completion. He especially praised Novak for her leadership on the wellness complex and other projects for DWU.

"It's remarkable what this lady has done in the last two-and-a-half years as president," Hart said.

Pratt also spoke during the event, and Bishop Bruce Ough, bishop of Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church, offered a prayer and blessing. Pratt paid special attention to the local people who worked on and donated to the project.

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"When we asked, you gave, and we are thankful for your support," Pratt said.

Novak noted that it has been 30 years since DWU opened the Christen Family Recreation/Wellness Center in 1986. That facility, now known as the Christen Family Athletic Center, was designed for five sports teams, when DWU had a student body of around 500. The new sports and wellness complex can accommodate the school's 16 athletic teams with approximately 450 students involved in athletics and a student body nearing 1,000, according to Novak.

"We opened a 90,000-square-foot facility dedicated to the health and wholeness of the next generation," Novak said. "Persistence has paid off."

Novak has emphasized partnerships during her tenure as president, and she touted those partnerships as cause for celebration and the completion of the wellness complex during Thursday's events. More than 160 individuals and organizations contributed to the wellness complex, including a commitment from Avera Health for $2.5 million, $1.5 million from the DWU Board of Trustees and $800,000 from the Mitchell Area Development Corporation. But, Novak said, the cornerstone of the project are Paul and Donna Christen and Glenda and Fritz Corrigan, who attended Thursday's ceremony and received a standing ovation from the crowd. The Christen and Corrigan families each were honored as donors of $2.5 million and above, and Novak described them as "exceptional couples."

"Partnerships made this dream a reality, and we celebrate that today," Novak said.

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