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UND BUILDING PROPOSAL: New complex is unveiled

Plan would create one of the largest collegiate recreation areas in the Midwest

, Herald Staff Writer

Source: Grand Forks Herald, March 20, 2002

Imagine a sprawling network of UND structures - Hyslop Sports Center, Memorial Stadium, old Ralph Engelstad Arena and a yet-to-be-built athletic department office building - completely renovated and interconnected with tubes and tunnels.

Imagine one of those structures (Hyslop) as a three-level student wellness center with seven multi-purpose athletic courts, a three-story-rock-climbing wall, day care center, saunas, dance studio, computer labs, swimming pool, a 7,000-square-foot weightlifting room and an elevated running track overlooking all of the action.

Imagine old Memorial Stadium, former home of UND's football team, coming alive again as an indoor athletic facility for track and field, intramural football, soccer, softball and baseball, to name just a few. It would be equipped with a "bubble-like" covering.

Imagine old Engelstad Arena as the new home of UND men's and women's basketball and volleyball, with a 5,000-seat basketball stadium and court on the north end, and an elevated volleyball court surrounded by thousands of spectator seats on the south end.

Imagine a new look for the "Old Ralph." The brown rusted iron that makes up the shell of the building now would be covered by a type of sheet siding, giving it a brick-covered appearance.

UND student leaders, administrators and athletic officials have imagined those very things, and the visions aren't too far from becoming reality. On Tuesday, UND students got their first look at those ideas as architectural renderings and plans were passed around campus.

Must be sure

It's all part of an ambitious $20 million effort to find more training space for UND athletes, utilize and improve some of UND's virtually vacant athletic venues, and develop a new recreation and wellness center for other students - something the school lacks now.

As for the wellness center, at a proposed cost of $8 million, it would be totally funded by an increase in student fees. Students will go to the polls on April 3 to register their approval or displeasure with the increase. Based on the results of that special election, the school's Student Senate will decide what will happen with student fees on April 7. If approved, student fees would be raised by $50 next fall. Those fees would go to support annual payments of a 30-year bond for the wellness center project.

"This is a very, very, very, expensive project and we're going to be paying it off for the next 30 years," said Student Body President Matt Brown. "So we have to be absolutely sure about this."

The renovations of the other venues on campus would most likely be funded by the UND Alumni Association, the school's administration and other local sources.

Officials figure that once construction begins on the entire project, it will take about two years to complete, "from shovel to turn-key." The North Dakota Legislature must give final approval to any new construction. It doesn't convene again until January.

Work on the new athletic department office building would be the first part of the project to break ground, officials say. Once the athletic department employees have a new home, then renovations could begin on old Engelstad to prepare it for basketball and volleyball.

Gauging support

Once all of the school's athletic teams and officials are vacated from Hyslop, work will finally begin on the new wellness center, Brown said.

Brown and other UND student government representatives took the message of putting a wellness center on campus to their constituents Tuesday, visiting a number of residence halls and student organizations in an effort to gauge support for the project.

Brown said the news has been generally well received by students, so far.

The wellness center would be free to students and their spouses and open to UND staff and faculty at a reduced rate.

Brown and Student Body Vice President Mike Cleveland traveled around the country and studied other schools' wellness centers before making a recommendation on what kind of facility should be at UND.

They say that if all would go as proposed, UND would have a larger wellness center than some of the large schools they visited, such as Texas A&M, with a student enrollment of 40,000.

Cleveland also made it known that UND would have a larger facility than a certain school to the south of Grand Forks.

"You could fit about four NDSU wellness centers in this one," Cleveland said.

Brown chimed in with a smile, "And you know, that's exciting."