Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Let'r Rip!

We really didn’t know what to expect. Would anybody come to a ground breaking celebration at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in July?
It turns out that more than 200 people will stand in the mid-morning sun to celebrate the beginning of construction for Bluffton’s Health and Fitness Education Center.

Alumni traveled by foot, by car and by airplane; new faculty, emeritus faculty and current faculty made their way back to campus; summer student workers and staff took a break from their duties, all to be part of the celebration.
There was a definite buzz in the air as old friends and colleagues greeted one another. Balloons, music and water bottle give-aways all added to the festive atmosphere.
The excitement is justified. For just as Yoder Recital Hall, Centennial Hall and Neufeld Hall have brought Bluffton’s arts, academic and residential facilities in line with the best, this facility will do the same for fitness and athletics.

While this building will meet the needs for varsity athletes, all students have the opportunity to benefit from the 5,000 square foot fitness center with windows overlooking the Riley Creek plain. There will be separate areas for aerobic fitness and free weights, and a walking/jogging track.

Being built into the hillside next to the old softball field, the center will be the first building on campus to be LEED certified silver or better. It will be energy efficient and take advantage of natural lighting. A percentage of the construction material will be recycled and regionally produced, and construction waste will be recycled.

That's all well and good, but I’d guess the question on every student’s mind is “will I get to run/lift/play in the new Health and Fitness Education Center?”

Thomas & Marker Construction, the same company who built Yoder Hall, Centennial Hall and Bob’s Place, is ready to get started. Construction fences are up. Site preparation is underway. Now it depends on if/how the weather impacts construction. Ideally the center will be “under roof” this fall, allowing interior construction to continue throughout the winter months.

The hope is to open the Health and Fitness Education Center by late fall 2012. So juniors, cross your fingers that all goes as planned. Sophomores and first-year students, you should be golden.

As Tom Reichenbach, co-chair of the Extending Our Reach campaign which made this center possible told J. Denny Beaver right before the actual breaking of ground, “Here are the keys. There is the machine. Let’r Rip!”

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