Sense of Place

Sense of Place

University of North Dakota Student Wellness Center
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More than 100,000 square feet of wellness were added to the University of North Dakota's main campus in Grand Forks.

FUNCTION: To support emotional, environmental, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and vocational/occupational dimensions of wellness.

CHALLENGES: Just 6,000 square feet inside of a facility shared by three academic programs, the athletic department, sports, and recreation had a wellness focus. While the 1951 structure had more than doubled in size in 1984, it simply housed too much. Yet up to 1,000 members of the campus community would visit the (non-air-conditioned) facility daily-often waiting an hour or more just to use the exercise equipment and being turned away from overcrowded exercise class rooms. Officials even installed a webcam so students could know what to expect in advance. Thanks to a student referendum, a new facility could be built.

SOLUTIONS: Officials got to work on what is now a 107,606-square-foot center. Located next to a tree-lined bike path, the center features lots of windows and a stone and brick fa?ade to complement the arena across the street.

But inside is where all the action is. "As we explored design options, we continually analyzed each layout to confirm we supported and reinforced a building that was wellness-inspired, and not just additional recreation space," says Chris Chivetta, president of Hastings & Chivetta Architects.

The final design included a three-court gym; a multipurpose gym; a fitness/weight/cardio training area; a suspended running track; group exercise rooms; aerobics, Pilates, and yoga rooms; a climbing wall; bicycle paths; and a spinning studio. Students can also learn to cook healthy foods in the demonstration kitchen (which has cameras for "Iron Chef"-style events).

Students have welcomed the wellness destination. "I think people are having an out-of-body experience," quips Laurie Betting, assistant vice president for wellness in UND's Student and Outreach Services department. As visitors would give Betting positive feedback during the grand opening, she would discover whole areas of the building that they had not yet even seen. As for the numbers, in just four hours 1,060 students came through-yet crowding wasn't an issue. While students say it's a great place to work out and meet friends, and administrators say it will boost recruitment and retention, from Betting's perspective it's "about creating an environment where you can encourage healthy behaviors that will last a lifetime."

PROJECT COST: $19.7 million (a pool area will cost another $8 million-$10 million, currently being raised)

TIMELINE: September 2006

ARCHITECT-OF-RECORD: Hastings & Chivetta Architects, St. Louis -M.E.


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