The new Minot State University Student Wellness Center last week was full of students running on treadmills, shooting baskets or eyeing the massive rock climbing wall.
"I want to try it," said Jesse McLeod, a junior from Regina, Sask. McLeod said the three-story rock wall hadn't been opened yet for student use, but there would be plenty of people waiting to scale the wall. Before they can try it out, students have to demonstrate that they know how to use the ropes and the safety harness and are aware of other safety features.
Wellness center director Paul Brekke said there is another area with boulders that students can climb without ropes. Fitness center employees will work with students to help them become more knowledgeable about what it takes to climb the rock wall, which is 35 feet high and has 2,000 square feet of climbing surface.
Minot State University Students have a view of the football field from the new Student Wellness Center.
"It's kind of an animal in and of itself," said Brekke of the rock-climbing wall.
McLeod said he might not make it to the top of the wall, but it might be a goal to shoot for by the end of the year.
McLeod likes everything about the wellness center which is paid for almost entirely through student fees.
"It's so big," he said. "We've got cardio, weights ... the windows are awesome and you can watch the football team practicing."
McLeod is a geology major and jokes that he will be a "buff, rich geologist" when he graduates. He plans to regularly exercise at the student wellness center.
The wellness center will make it easier for students to exercise right on campus and also to make connections with each other.
"Everybody knows everyone here," said McLeod.
Sophomores Brandi Bodvig and Danielle Iverson said they like the amount of space in the new facility and the variety of equipment that is available. There are different types of equipment on different levels, so someone looking for a treadmill or an elliptical machine doesn't need to stay on just one floor. They can be found all over.
The women are also looking forward to some of the other offerings that will be available, like exercise classes.
"I would like to take a spinning class," said Bodvig.
The wellness center employs three full-time staff members and 26 student employees. Student Wellness Center Director Paul Brekke said this is a good opportunity for students to gain work experience, particularly students who are going into a fitness-related field.
The building is currently open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and from 2 to 10 p.m. on Sundays.
It boasts two gymnasiums, one with a regular wood floor and one with a mat court, the rock-climbing wall, a student weight room and athletic weight room, a wrestling room and a cardio room.
Brekke said his favorite thing about the building is the windows, which lets light into every nook and cranny.
"You can see everything," he said. "You can see, feel and hear activity from the minute you enter the building."
The 60,000-square-foot $12.7 million facility was completed late this summer and opened for student use, but vice president for student affairs Richard Jenkins said the building has been 20 years in the making.
Jenkins explained that student council members approached administrators two decades ago with a request for a place where students could exercise. Students passed fee increases that paid for an exercise facility that was located initially in the basement of the old Swain Hall. When Swain was renovated, the facility was moved over to the MSU Dome. Students later approved a fee increase that funded the lion's share of the facility. The building is being funded with student fees of $125.97 per semester, plus $56.50 per semester for operating expenses over a period of 30 years.
MSU President David Fuller said the wellness center fits well into the university's vision of its future growth. It, like other student hang-out spots like the Beaver Dam, is a way to help students feel more engaged in the life of the campus and more a part of the university. It also serves as a good recruiting tool, since future students expect these sorts of amenities.
Jenkins said the university had at one point hoped to find a donor who would pay for a portion of the facility, but "finding a donor to pay for a student wellness center is not an easy thing to do." That means students will end up paying for most of it.
McLeod, at least, seems to think the extra money he pays per semester to support the wellness center is worth it.
Jenkins said the university had originally envisioned a Phase II for the project that would have incorporated the wellness center as a complex that would include a building housing some of the health sciences and nursing programs. It would have been connected to the Dome, Swain Hall and the Student Wellness Center. That didn't prove to be financially feasible, but Jenkins said it might still be an option in coming years. It is well suited to its current location near the Dome, which has a track and racquetball courts. It made sense to share facilities.
The Student Wellness Center is connected to the Dome and to Swain Hall and is heated and cooled with geothermal wells along with other buildings on the north end of the campus, which should save on energy costs.
Brekke, who came to the university in 2007, has had the dubious distinction of moving his office five times during the remodeling of Swain Hall and various projects at the MSU Dome and now to the new wellness center. He and the rest of the staff seem as excited as the students by being in the beautiful new building.