Ambitious Plans for Campus Health Centers

Rachel Pukall

A plan for the new Total Health Care Center has been presented, offering a new Health and Wellness Center building as well as the construction of a separate childcare building in the summer of 2018.

“This is a building project that would enhance many aspects of student life on campus,” said Jen Sorenson, the administrative director of Student Health Services. “It would positively impact intramural sports through increasing both indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities. It would also create collaborative opportunities in health and wellness for students, provide a well-designed and more efficient medical facility and improve the athletic fields on campus.”

In 2011, a committee was asked to visit the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point to assess what recreational needs the university has.

The committee’s first recommendation was to add additional recreational space to the Allen Center. There were also talks of integrating facilities available at Delzell Hall with those at the Allen Center.

Over the years, the number of students that the Allen Center caters to through Cardio Center membership and through free group fitness classes has increased significantly.

“Our free group fitness classes are filled to maximum capacity and the ability to have larger studios available in this new facility would allow us to have more students participate in our classes,” said Beth Northuis, the health and fitness specialist in the Allen Center.

“This campus, if you really look at it, is fantastic because everyone loves to participate in clubs, sports and intramurals,” said Jeff Piette, an architect for the project. “It’s a very active campus which is great, and a very active campus means that during winter activities lead to being inside. So when you’re looking for space, everyone wants space at the same time.”

The committee did a study of what space is being used and at what time of day in each of the facilities.

“Some of the clubs and intramural sports were going past 1 a.m., and when you’re thinking about it, really you’re here to study and be a student first and foremost, so going until 1 or 2 in the morning is just unacceptable,” Piette said. “For recreational purposes, it was about needing space.”

The original idea to build onto the Allen Center, however, became a problem when the project started to become too large. It began to get in the way of the residence halls in the area.

“We looked at a number of sites and a number of ways to put this building together and went through a number of iterations and came to the conclusion to look at the existing soccer field as a site for this building,” Piette said.

Because the new Health and Wellness building would be about 127,000 square feet, the soccer field would have to be relocated.

“We thought it could go to the back of the building and become a synthetic turf soccer field,” Piette said. “Last spring it was horrible outside and you couldn’t play on a natural grass field because it was too wet.”

Piette said that synthetic turf is gaining popularity in the Midwest because it makes the field more playable and useable, not only for soccer but other sports as well. The university plans to eventually transition to synthetic turf on the football fields so players can practice later into the year.

“The current soccer field was deemed the best location for a variety of reasons,” Sorenson said. “It creates a direct east-west walking route from the Debot Center and is close to the residence halls. It will also bring an enhanced campus presence to an area that was not visibly demarcated as campus previously.”

Since the soccer field will be moved, the recreational fields would replace the Coleman track.

“There are no track meets and very little athletic practices there,” Piette said. “It’s only used occasionally for recreational fitness, so the thought was to take the track area and put it around the soccer field, as a 400 meter track with indoor turf.”

As for the new childcare center, the building planners have decided to create a separate building with entrances and exits on all sides.

“The childcare center is currently located in Delzell hall, but it’s in the basement and that’s just a poor building layout,” Piette said. “With security issues, you can imagine, childcare is one of those things that really does need to be secure. You need accessibility, and anyone with disabilities can’t really get there.”

Confidentiality is also an issue with the health center’s current layout.

“The childcare center would go up on the corner Maria Drive and Illinois Avenue. By putting childcare there, softball would be moved to the center of campus, which would really create a central core of recreation,” Piette said.

The childcare staff expressed interest in the inclusion of a welcoming entry for childcare drop off. The building would also incorporate natural light, outdoor play areas and have the drop off area right off Illinois Avenue.

“Stevens Point is nationally recognized for its wellness program. It’s got a connection to wellness, and it’s always had that national connection,” Piette said.

The project is currently under review by the Student Government Association. If the project moves to a referendum vote in the spring of 2014, and students vote to proceed with the project, then it should be finalized in the summer of 2018.

“I see this as a project that will add value to campus and create a physical environment that projects and promotes the focus on wellness that has been present on this campus for many years,” Sorenson said. 

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