SPEARFISH | It may be a few years in the offing, but by fall 2019, hundreds of students at Black Hills State University could be enjoying the use of a state-of-the-art wellness center, under a proposal approved recently by the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Currently, the university’s 4,300 students interested in a workout use an aging 4,000-square-foot fitness center that was converted from an old dance floor in the 27-year-old Young Center. University officials say that student expectations have evolved over the past two decades and that a wellness center, added as a new wing to the Young Center, would breathe new life into a campus populated with health-conscious students.

“Students have talked about what they want to see — a wellness center that would incorporate the health services center and a health/wellness center,” said Corinne Hansen, BHSU’s director of university and community relations. “We have a growing exercise science program, and those students ideally would like to be involved in some form with the operation of the center. It would be a good opportunity to involve some of them in active learning.”

As envisioned, the expanded wellness center would feature updated facilities, advanced workout equipment, wi-fi connections and the ability to accommodate athletes in the university’s expanding sports programs, Hansen said last week.

“Our students want the focus on healthy living,” she said. “We have active students who are very health-oriented, and it’s important to them to have a wellness center.”

The impetus behind the project came from the student body, which suggested that a new wellness center ranked among the top priorities of those attending the university, founded in 1883.

“The incoming Student Senate Executive Team met with President (Tom) Jackson last spring to discuss the upcoming year,” Student Association Vice President Justin Logue said in an email to the Journal. “When we met, one of the student concerns that was talked about was the need for an addition to the Young Center on our campus.

“Beginning this semester, Student Senators surveyed students in their perspective colleges and asked about improvements that could be made to BHSU. One of the top suggested improvements was a larger fitness area or a wellness center.”

Although the original concept for funding the project involved a per-credit-hour surcharge paid by students, that plan was abandoned months ago in favor of a funding mechanism that would involve two-thirds of the project cost derived from private donors, including alumni and businesses, and the remainder being paid through the reallocation of existing funds, Hansen said.

At its Dec. 8 session, the state’s Board of Regents discussed BHSU’s plans, then allowed the university to proceed with a study that would involve input from architects and wellness planning experts, determine the amount of space required and potential costs, and explore student needs and the best location for the new facility, Hansen said.

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Following completion of the study, BHSU representatives will return to the Regents with a plan that includes specifics for the wellness center, she said.

“Preliminary discussions indicate the best location for this addition would be on the south side of the Young Center adjacent to the pool patio,” according to the written proposal presented to Regents. “This location would take advantage of the exterior views toward the new campus green and also toward the mountain vista to the east.”

The timetable for construction and total potential costs are currently unknown and would be determined in the planning phase, university officials said.

“The best case scenario would have a fall 2019 opening date for the wellness center,” Hansen said. “But that depends on how the study develops.”

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