New Wellness Center showcases growing health, exercise science programs

UNK student Sierra Welsh works out in the new campus Wellness Center, which opens to students Aug. 1. The $6.5 million project features a new student fitness center, classrooms, physical activity and wellness lab, and public health research and community outreach space.

UNK student Sierra Welsh works out in the new campus Wellness Center, which opens to students Aug. 1. The $6.5 million project features a new student fitness center, classrooms, physical activity and wellness lab, and public health research and community outreach space.

Editor’s note: This is the first story in a three-part series highlighting the new Wellness Center at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Future stories include:

  • Aug. 4 – The Physical Activity and Wellness Lab allows for cutting-edge research and features a demonstration kitchen, which will be used for community-based programming.
  • Aug. 11 – A rock climbing wall, fitness studio and state-of-the art exercise equipment are centerpieces of the student fitness center.

Cost: $6.5 million Construction Start: April 2013 Opens: Aug. 1 Grand Opening/Public Tours: 4 to 6 p.m., Aug. 27  Size: 19,000 square feet Funding: Student wellness fee, $2.4 million; University cash funds, $2.4 million; Private donations, $1.7 million Overview: The new Wellness Center will provide a facility for teaching and research in public health; promotion of physical activity, obesity treatment and prevention; student fitness activities; and wellness programming for students, faculty and staff. Features: Public health research space and community outreach, fitness center, physical activity and wellness lab, renovated classrooms,  Renovation: About 4,000 square feet of existing fitness, student recreation and classroom space inside Cushing Coliseum also is being renovated.By SARA GIBONEY
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s new Wellness Center will attract more students to the nationally-known exercise science education and research program, says Nita Unruh, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences.

“A facility like this for a campus our size is incredible. You’re not going to find a facility like this past Lincoln until you get to Denver. We’re it,” she said.

“I believe this facility is going to be a tremendous recruitment tool for the Kinesiology and Sport Sciences Department. Not only for exercise science, but for recreation, sport management and physical education.”

The $6.5 million Wellness Center is a new 19,000-square-foot facility east of Cushing Coliseum. The center opens Aug. 1 and includes program and research space, in addition to a large fitness center for students.

Unruh says the research space, named the Physical Activity and Wellness Lab, will allow students to better apply what they’re learning in the classroom.

“That experiential learning piece is critical,” she said.

The former lab, known as the Human Performance Lab, was shared by undergraduate majors in athletic training, physical education and health education. Exercise science majors will now have a dedicated space to engage in service and research activities.

The exercise science undergraduate program has tripled in size over the last 10 years. Every core course in exercise science is at maximum capacity every semester. Each course has a lab component, and the new lab space will allow for 12-13 lab sections per semester. Only eight lab sections could be taught in the Human Performance Lab.

The Wellness Center will also feature a demonstration kitchen, which will be used during wellness and nutrition classes. The space also will be used for community-based programming.

A renovation of about 4,000 square feet of existing student recreation and classroom space inside Cushing Coliseum will be completed at a later date.

UNK Wellness 2 bENHANCING CAMPUS LIFE

The state-of-the-art facility adds nearly 10,000 more square feet for exercise machines, weights, exercise and fitness classes, and group activities. Aerobic and weight equipment are in separate areas, and a new fitness studio will feature classes such as Zumba and yoga.

“There are many studies that say once a student or an individual is moving, their brain is working better,” Unruh said. “So having a facility where students can workout or relieve their stress is going to help them academically.”

But the feature that already has students talking is a 30-foot rock climbing wall. Unruh said the department hopes to eventually offer outdoor adventure opportunities, and the rock wall is just the beginning.

COMMUNITY BENEFIT

“The Physical Activity and Wellness Lab already has a strong community hold in what they do in developing better family relations and better health and wellness for families,” Unruh said.

The problem, she said, is that limited space prohibited the university from serving all of the families requesting services.

Recent community outreach programs involving UNK include Building Healthy Families, PATH – Physically Active Together for Health School Based Physical Activity promotion, Nebraska BMI Screening and Reporting System and Nebraska Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day.

Unruh said the increased space will allow UNK to serve families in nearby towns such as Elm Creek and Amherst, and possibly Lexington and Grand Island. Building Healthy Families has potential to expand to new families throughout the year rather than one time per year.

“Without the students this wouldn’t have happened,” Unruh said. “It took the student voice to make this happen, and I’m glad we listened. I’m very proud of all the students on this campus who said, ‘You know, this is important to UNK, and we’re behind it.’”

A student wellness fee paid adopted in 2005 paid for $2.4 million of the Wellness Center project. The rest of the project was funded by $1.7 million in private donations and $2.4 million from university cash funds.

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Source: Nita Unruh, 308.865.8335, unruhnc@unk.edu
Writer: Sara Giboney, 308.865.8529, giboneys2@unk.edu

Workers continue to put the finishing touches on the UNK Wellness Center, which opens to students Aug. 1.

Workers continue to put the finishing touches on the UNK Wellness Center, which opens to students Aug. 1.

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