Whitworth breaks ground for new recreation center construction

Ground was broken Friday, Sept. 21, for a new 32,000-square-foot recreation center that will open fall 2013. It will include three basketball courts, an elevated three-lane indoor track, a rock climbing wall with bouldering features and a fitness center 30 percent larger than the Scotford Fitness Center.

“It’s so multidimensional, and provides more opportunities to exercise physically in the winter months,” senior and ASWU Vice President Tim Gjefle said.

The center is being built in response to student requests, said Brian Benzel, vice president of finance and administration. Students expressed a need for additional space for intramurals and other indoor activities, he said. With the new center it will no longer be necessary for intramural basketball games to be scheduled at the YMCA.

“The idea was generated by students. We took that seriously and began incorporating that into our planning,” Benzel said.

Three or four students, some of whom were athletes, worked on a design team with leaders to create the perfect facility. Surveys were taken about the center to hear the voices of more students as well. The university wants the students to feel ownership, Gjefle said.

The budget for the center is $8.5 million, but the project is coming in at less than $8 million. The majority of the funding came from bonds sold by the university, and a $300 facilities fee students paid is being used for a portion of the debt service.

Besides the obvious benefits students will enjoy, Benzel hopes the new center will help encourage student-faculty relationships.

“It will be available for faculty and staff as well as students. It is a good place for people to mix and get acquainted in new ways,” Benzel said.

Dick Mandeville, vice president of Student Life, was the opening speaker at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“This project fits well in our heart and mind mission, and in our mission to develop whole people,” Mandeville said.

Instead of a symbolic turning of dirt ritual to close the ceremony and mark the official start of construction, Benzel, Gjefle, Mandeville and assistant dean of students Dayna Coleman Jones each shot a basketball.

The university rec center will be located north of Westminster Hall.

Kendra Stubbs Staff Writer

Contact Kendra Stubbs at kstubbs15@my.whitworth.edu.