UNR gets $8M gift to build recreation center | NevadaAppeal.com

UNR gets $8M gift to build recreation center

Scott Sonner
The Associated Press

RENO — The E.L Wiegand Foundation is contributing $8 million to the University of Nevada, Reno, to build a $46.3 million, 110,000-square-foot recreation and fitness center near the Lawlor Events Center, school officials said Monday.

The grant is the largest single contribution in the foundation’s history and the fifth largest the school has ever received, school and foundation officials said.

The four-story E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center will be available for use by students, faculty and staff. It will house an indoor 200-meter running track and three full-court gymnasiums for basketball, volleyball and indoor tennis as well as areas for weightlifting and training.

“When I was a student here, this was a dirt slope,” Gov. Brian Sandoval, a 1986 UNR graduate, said during the formal announcement at the Joe Crowley Student Union on Monday.

“If you wanted to work out then, there were eight universal machines behind the swimming pool in about a 100-square foot area,” he said. “It was hot and it was stinky.”

The new, glass-enclosed building will nearly triple the space currently devoted to recreation and fitness, primarily at the Lombardi Recreation Center, where 350 people are turned away weekly from drop-in fitness and recreation classes due to overcrowding, school officials said.

It is expected to open in late 2016 in what is now a parking lot along Virginia Street, just south of Lawlor and west of the student union.

“It will become the architectural jewel of this campus” said Kristen Avansino, president and CEO of the E.L. Wiegand Foundation, which has contributed more than $10 million to the university since 1983.

“It will stand at the intersection of town and gown — the university and the Biggest Little City in the World,” she said.

UNR President Marc Johnson said the foundation “recognizes the importance of valuing the ‘whole picture’ of our students and investing in resources to nurture mind, body and spirit.”

“It is a very, very important expansion of this university,” Johnson said. “It is a major, transformational statement.”

“We want to emphasize whole human capital development. We also want to build a lifelong habitat of fitness and healthy living,” he said.

About one-fourth of the construction costs are expected to be covered by a proposed $15 per semester student fee. Most of the rest will come from revenue bonds.

School officials said recent surveys show as many as 30 percent of students choose a college based on the availability of recreation and wellness facilities and three-fourths say it affects their decision.

“There is a tremendous amount of research and data that connects student fitness levels to improved cognitive function, academic performance, social networks and engagement on campus, plus a decrease in stress and anxiety,” said Jim Fitzsimmons, UNR’s director of campus recreation and wellness.