The first gymnasium on the St. Ambrose campus was called Play Hall.
Built in 1888, the building measured a cozy 25 feet by 50 feet. It was replaced in 1909 by a larger exercise space in the lower portion of a new addition to Ambrose Hall. That was bigger, but not big enough.
LeClaire Hall—with its (then) expansive state-of-the-art gymnasium, basement swimming pool and balcony running track—came along in 1917, built to fit the college's growing needs and expanding student body. And in 1982, that finally outdated facility made way for the PE Center.
Rev. William Hannon, the fourth president of St. Ambrose, stressed at the LeClaire Hall dedication: " We must not forget that our mental training is as important as our physical development."
That admonition never has been forgotten at St. Ambrose, where, from the outset, the physical and mental development of Ambrosians each have been viewed as essential elements of the school's mission.
What the builders of Play Hall, LeClaire Hall and even the PE Center could not have foreseen, however, is how intertwined those once seemingly separate mission elements would become in the 21st century.
In 2013, an important segment of our student population is here specifically to learn how to enhance the physical development of others through our expanding health sciences curricula. Meanwhile, St. Ambrose students and prospective students of all educational disciplines are keenly interested in truly modern recreational facilities, where they can work to stay or become physically fit through all the means modern exercise science can provide. That desire is keener still in athletes.
The construction of a new health and wellness center to meet the expanding needs of the modern student and our growing university has been designated as the highest priority on a 10-year Master Plan approved by the Board of Trustees.
Both the need and the value are clear.