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Celebrating Homecoming & Health

Photo of the new SAU Wellness and Recreation Center

September 2017


St. Ambrose University officially introduced the new Wellness and Recreation Center - the largest single capital project in university history - during a Blessing, Dedication and Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony  on Friday, Sept. 29.

The ceremony for students, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, Building Our Future campaign supporters and invited guests and media was a signature event during Homecoming Weekend 2017.

The Most Rev. Thomas Zinkula, Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport and chair of the St. Ambrose Board of Trustees, blessed the new facility. Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, president of St. Ambrose,led the dedication along with Building Our Future campaign co-chairs Barbara and Mike Johnson and Brian Lemek, a 1986 SAU graduate. Beth (Figge) Lemek, also a 1986 graduate and campaign co-chair, was unable to attend.

Honored guests included U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack and Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch. At a groundbreaking ceremony 18 months ago, Mayor Klipsch applauded the construction project's $43 million in estimated impact on the local economy. That added to the $200 million in annual impact that a recent study showed the University has on the Quad Cities economy.

Russell Construction of Davenport was the general contractor for the project. Another 42 local companies were sub-contracted to assist in building the facility and renovating parts of the adjacent Physical Education Center. RDG Planning and Design of Des Moines, Iowa, designed the Wellness and Recreation Center.

Total cost of the project was $21.5 million, including the purchase and installation of equipment and furniture. The $18.5 million in construction costs is being funded through the support of donors to the ongoing Building Our Future capital campaign.

The official dedication of the Wellness and Recreation Center fulfilled a long-standing strategic goal for St. Ambrose University, which has expanded its physical campus with more than $100 million in new construction and building renovations over the past decade. The university has built 14 new buildings and renovated more than a dozen since 1990.

A new wellness and recreation facility was identified as the highest priority in a 10-year Master Plan approved by the University's Board of Trustees in 2011.

"We are proud to bless and dedicate this tremendous facility," said Sister Joan. "This building will greatly enhance the St. Ambrose experience of all of our students, and it will impact generations of Ambrosians as we work to serve the ‘whole student' in body, mind and spirit."

The 80,000-square-foot facility features two weight and fitness centers, one of which will be used mostly by athletes. Another will be available for recreational use by the entire campus community, and covers 5,200 square feet and two stories, with a first-floor weight-training center and a second-floor cardio center.

A 56,000-square-foot field house is the most prominent part of the new building. The field house features a six-lane, 200-meter track, stations for pole vault and long and triple jumps, as well as two resilient flooring courts and two hardwood courts for basketball and volleyball practices.

Concurrent renovations to the adjacent PE Center created office suites for the Athletics and Wellness and Recreation departments, upgraded locker room facilities and rebuilt the weight-training center dedicated largely to use by student-athletes. A new HVAC system was installed and the 34-year-old PE Center was entirely refurbished with paint and Fighting Bees logos.

A clubroom will host university functions, and members of the SAU Athletics Hall of Fame will be honored in a section of a lobby that connects the field house and Lee Lohman Arena.

The new building provides a home venue for the SAU indoor track and field teams. St. Ambrose will host four indoor meets this coming season, including the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletics Conference championships Feb. 16-17, 2018.

Jennifer Lopez, a senior from Elgin, Ill., who majors in biology and won an NAIA national track and field championship in the 3000-meter indoor race walk in 2016, is among the many student-athletes excited to make use of the facility.

"This is such a first-class building and it will definitely allow Fighting Bees athletes like me to train better and train smarter," Lopez said. "For my first three years, the track and field teams mostly trained off-campus, and for race walkers, that often meant an hour drive to a place with an available indoor track. Now, I can schedule training around my classwork, and have use of the best facility in the region."

Students in health and wellness-related majors, including a growing Kinesiology Department, will make use of classrooms and laboratories in the new building.

"These classrooms and state-of-the-art lab facilities will complement and enhance the health sciences programs at St. Ambrose," said Sandra Cassady, PhD, vice president for strategic initiatives and dean of the College of Health and Human Services. "The introduction this year of a Master of Exercise Physiology to our graduate degree offerings is evidence of the increasing need and value of wellness-related educational opportunities. St. Ambrose is at the forefront of providing those opportunities."

James Loftus, PhD, vice president for enrollment management, said the facility will combine with strong academic programs and spacious and modern residence halls to help attract prospective students and student-athletes.

"Small class sizes, faculty primarily focused on student needs, and the immediate sense of community that prospective students feel when they step onto our campus always will be among St. Ambrose's most attractive features," Loftus said. "Prospective students do, though, want to see these kinds of wellness and recreational facilities as they consider their college choice. Now, they have one more big reason to choose St. Ambrose. And, we saw the value of that this fall, as our first-year numbers were our biggest in years."

The Wellness and Recreation Center is the priority project of the $18.5 million Building Our Future campaign, which was announced to the public on April 6, 2016. The campaign continues.

The impact of philanthropy on this project is evidenced by the more than 55 named features identified throughout the facility in honor of major donor support. Among these are the Stephen and Shelagh Roell Indoor Track, in gratitude to 1971 graduate and current St. Ambrose Board of Trustee member Stephen Roell. The lobby will be named in remembrance of Hall of Fame football player Bob Jurevitz at the request of donors Beth and Brian Lemek. Brian was a teammate of the late Bob Jurevitz.

"It is important that current and future students understand this tremendous facility will not be paid for with their tuition dollars," said James Stangle, vice president for advancement. "This fundraising effort has been met with terrific enthusiasm from St. Ambrose alumni and donor supporters. They understand how important this facility can be for the future of this university."

Stangle lauded the work by the Lemeks and Johnsons in their role as campaign chairs. He also praised honorary campaign chairs Jim Hagen, a 1956 graduate, and his wife, Mary, and the many alumni and friends of the university who actively led various fundraising subcommittees.

As the campaign continues in pursuit of its goal, Stangle said the results to date have helped strengthen the university's future by expanding SAU's base of support. Of the more than 170 donors who supported the campaign with donations of $10,000 or more, 55 percent were making that significant a gift for the first time.

Want to learn more? Click here to read a Fact Sheet about the Wellness and Recreation Center. 

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