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Wellness center is latest project in Shepherd's building boom

July 27, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Less than two weeks after breaking ground on a $50 million arts center, Shepherd University officials Wednesday unveiled early plans for a new wellness center that is expected to cost about $16 million.

The university needs a new wellness center because Sara Cree Hall, the building on the east campus where wellness programs have been offered, was built in 1952 and its swimming pool cannot be used for competitive swimming, according to Ed Magee, vice president for administration and finance at Shepherd.

Shepherd University has been wanting to return competitive swimming to its offerings, school officials said.

The new wellness center will be connected to the Butcher Center, the university's basketball complex on the west campus.

Designers of the building showed a preliminary sketch of the wellness center during a meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies.

It included a rotunda in front of the building.

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People entering the rotunda will be able to see every amenity before them, said Wayne L. Hughes of HughesGroup Architects, which is working on the design of the building.

The wellness center will have a 25-meter-by-25-yard pool, a weightlifting and fitness area, an indoor track, a sun deck and two gymnasiums that will not only offer space for playing basketball, but allow for badminton, volleyball and room for social functions, Hughes said.

Instead of large locker rooms with large centralized shower facilities, the center will offer "locker suites" which will have about four lockers in each suite, Hughes said.

Each suite will have its own shower and toilet, Hughes said, emphasizing that the suites are designed to give a "less institutional feel" to locker areas.

A retail area will give people the chance to buy hats and T-shirts, while a snack bar area probably will attract students from nearby buildings and offer a place to relax, Hughes said.

The swimming pool will be handicapped accessible through the use of lifts, Hughes said.

The swimming area will have a special system to control humidity and a seating area accessed from the Butcher Center will allow spectators to watch swimming events, Hughes said.

"It's going to be a first-class swimming venue," Hughes said. Hughes and Shepherd officials discussed various designs to the pool Wednesday as part of the work to return a competitive swimming program to Shepherd.

Virginia Hicks, dean of education and professional studies, gave high marks to the project during the meeting.

"This is going to benefit everyone. Shepherd is already on the map. Shepherd will really be on the map," Hicks said.

The cost of the wellness center stands at about $19 million but it needs to be reduced to about $16 million, Hughes said.

Magee said Shepherd has funding for the wellness center, although some student fees might need to be increased to help pay for it.

HughesGroup Architects and Shepherd officials are still doing design work on the center and it is expected to be put out for bids in February, Hughes said.

Construction will take about 14 to 16 months, Hughes said.

Shepherd has been buzzing with construction activity recently as dormitories and other facilities have gone up.

Earlier this month, school officials broke ground on an arts center which will eventually cost about $50 million to construct.

The Center for Contemporary Arts will be built on the west campus along W.Va. 480 across from Shepherd's football stadium and will have a modern design incorporating curved roofs and stone and copper exteriors.

The center will take the unique approach of blending the visual arts and the performing arts at Shepherd, where the Contemporary American Theater Festival is staged each summer.

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