By: Eric Sandbulte, The Brookings Register

$14M renovation, expansion complete

BROOKINGS – South Dakota State University’s Wellness Center celebrated with a grand re-opening and dedication ceremony Friday afternoon the completion of a year-and-a-half of renovation and new construction on the facility.

Wellness Center staff led guided tours of the completed space.

The $14 million project was built using funds generated from user fees. Those dollars helped add 37,500 square feet of new space that was added onto the north end of the building and renovate another 9,000 square feet, as well as purchase a variety of equipment.

According to Wellness Center recreation and fitness director Shari Landmark, officials took care to design the addition and renovated areas so it blended well with the existing structure and looks like a single, cohesive unit.

Included in the new space is a functional fitness area that Landmark described as something out of American Ninja Warrior. This area has adult-sized monkey bars, battle ropes and three new squat racks. Although there’s a good selection of dumbbells ranging in weight from 5 pounds up to 150 pounds, there are also more creative means of building strength: tires of four different sizes and weights going from 40 pounds up to 220 pounds.

Another new feature in the northern addition is a full-size basketball court, complete with SDSU’s SD emblem on top of an image of the state of South Dakota, a blue star marking the university’s location. Volleyball can also be played on this court thanks to drop-down nets from the ceiling, which makes for easy storage and setup.

Next to it is the new multi-activity court, a very flexible space. There are inset goals on each end of the court and moveable walls that can be adjusted further in or out to better suit different games, such as hockey or soccer. It can also be adjusted to play handball, badminton or pickleball.

Two racquetball courts were also included in the addition at students’ request, which came as a bit of a surprise to Landmark. Although racquetball had been included in the plans for the original building when it was first built in 2008, it was eventually cut.

Again, there’s a bit of flexibility built into these courts. Landmark said by setting up some nets, people can play wallyball.

There’s a new studio room upstairs with a wood floor. This space can be used for such activities as yoga and Pilates.

Another fun new addition to their offerings is their outdoor program and equipment. They’ve got canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, duck and geese decoys, sleds and skis.

“We have clinics that show people how to use that equipment,” Landmark said. “We also take adventure trips. So, we might even go down to the Palisades and do some camping and climbing. … It’s exciting to have that new component to the facility which we’ve never had in this facility before.”

A lot of the newly purchased equipment is more technologically advanced than ever. A student can connect to a music streaming service through their cardio equipment, for example. Treadmills have screens built into them, and users can select different environments through which to run, such as the beach. It can also keep track of how well the user does and record that through an app. They can also keep track of how many miles are being put on them, allowing staff to rotate treadmills around so that they get used more evenly.

A couple of the machines can even run their own diagnostic checks to find the source of any issue its experiencing.

There are some spaces in the building that are empty at the moment, but Landmark said they’re waiting to get a feel for what’s needed. When that happens, they’ll order some more equipment to suit their needs. They expect that to be done around the new year.

Beyond the fitness area, there’s been plenty of work done to improve the Student Health Clinic and Counseling Center as well as Jackrabbit Pharmacy. More exam rooms were added along with more space for counselors, and the pharmacy was moved to have a more visible location.

One of the goals during construction was to keep the Wellness Center open, and they were able to meet that goal, except for a few days for significant water and electrical work. The construction’s impact on the function of the building was minimal, however, and as Landmark and the others knew, whatever inconveniences came up would be worth it in the end.

“Our mission is ‘enriching quality of life is our passion.’ I think we really live that every day here,” Landmark said. “You think of a gym; well, we’re a lot more than that.”

She encouraged members of the public to come check out the facility, and directed those who are interested in membership to check out their website at www.sdstate.edu/wellness-center or to call their front desk at 688-6415.

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