Facility snapshot: William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center 

Medical doctors, faculty researchers and students will share a new, jointly funded facility at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

A project six years in the making, the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center is a hybrid facility that’s unique but representative of the funding innovation often required to build anew on college campuses today. With higher ed finances impacted by heavily by COVID, such partnerships—in this case between University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Centura Health and the Colorado Springs “City of Champions” project—it’s likely that creativity will be needed more than ever in campus construction moving forward.

Fast Facts about the Hybl Center
Fast Facts about the Hybl Center (click on infographic to enlarge)

The Hybl Center brings together clinical researchers, faculty, students, doctors and athletes to study, research and improve upon health and human performance. For example, doctoral students in physical therapy will help train, and observe, tactical athletes like firefighters and police. Athletes from around the country will have the opportunity to come to rehabilitate or train. A nutrition laboratory and kitchen will give culinary and medical students opportunities to explore how food impacts athletes of all skill levels and abilities. An altitude chamber will be able to transport users from a sea-level atmosphere to the heights of the Himalayas. Specialized equipment will give athletes with physical disabilities a tailored space to train. A sports medicine and performance clinic will bring in diverse patients and allow hands-on care to help athletes optimize their skills.

The facility is intentional about offering “collision spaces” for students, faculty, clinicians, athletes and researchers to advance human performance together.

Steven Johnson, co-executive direction of the center, and Paul Whitson, AIA, regional leader of healthcare at the architectural firm HOK, answered some questions about Hybl: 

UB: Funding came from the City for Champions project approved by the Colorado Economic Development Commission, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, and Centura Health. What portion of funds came from each?

Johnson: It breaks out to close to an even three-way split between the City for Champions tax increment financing, UCCS and Centura Health. The project received significant philanthropic support from a number of organizations who made investments to further the visionary mission of this initiative.

UB: This project helps position Colorado Springs as a City of Champions hub for sports and fitness. What are the other venues relate to the City of Champions project?

Johnson: The Hybl Center was approved as part of the Colorado Springs City for Champions project, an initiative to bring tourism into the Pikes Peak region through four distinct cultural projects. These ventures include the United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum, the Downtown Stadium and Robson Arena at Colorado College, the U.S. Air Force Academy Gateway Visitors Center, and the Hybl Center.

UB: What academic departments and majors will make use of the facility, and does the university anticipate starting any new related academic programs?

Johnson: Departments include the Department of Human Physiology and Nutrition, and the Department of Health Sciences. Bachelor-level majors are Human Physiology and Nutrition, Exercise Science, Health and Wellness Promotion, and Applied Physiology. Masters-level majors are Exercise Science, Athletic Training, Sport Nutrition and Health Promotion. Students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program also use the facility.

UB: Which function or feature of the facility are you most excited about?

Whitson: The continuity of the experience. The clinic, PT and performance spaces are seamlessly connected and open to an outdoor fitness space. The adjacencies create a great environment for all users that promotes both flexibility and innovation. The main stair connecting the performance area to the upper level gives users multiple spaces to train and learn.

Johnson: As far as I know, this is the only center in the nation that integrates clinical services and undergraduate and graduate education and research.

UB: How will COVID restrictions impact the opening of this facility and operation of the programs housed there?

Johnson: Here is a brief summary of the impact on COVID-19 on our operations:

  • The Centura health clinics are operating the same as their other clinics with every patient undergoing a simple health screening and temperature check upon entering the facility.
  • Altitude and environmental chambers are currently unavailable.
  • Metabolic testing is also not possible under the current guidelines.
  • Maximum group size in our sports performance area is 20 to allow for social distancing.
  • Our classrooms and instructional labs are in alignment with requirements established by El Paso County Health Dept.

UB: Do you see facility partnerships like this being important to the future of higher ed?

Whitson: Absolutely. In this case, the partnership enabled UCCS to get academic space it couldn’t have gotten any other way. Through their partnership with Centura and City for Champions, they were able to grow or establish new programs in a way that benefits both students and the community. Centura has formed a very symbiotic relationship with the university. The university benefits from their involvement and Centura has the opportunity to establish an academic health system with access to research opportunities that can lead to new therapies and treatments, all while playing a role in creating better practitioners. These creative partnerships will continue to pop up on campuses across the country.

Johnson: One of the important initiatives for the faculty at UCCS is to create interdisciplinary, interprofessional curricula. We think that the next generation of medical practitioners will be based more on teamwork and less on individuals. This interprofessional component is where you combine experts from different fields to solve health care and medical problems.  We think that is paramount.

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