Worcester State University celebrated the grand opening of their new $52.6 million, 101,000 square foot Wellness Center. This building will replace the previous gym, which was built in 1958 for a student population of around 400. An upgrade was required when administration wanted to meet the needs of a growing population of students.
The Wellness Center will include a 9,000 square foot, two level fitness center, a multi-purpose gym featuring 1,500 seats and two dividable courts and batting cages; an elevated track open to the community during certain hours; and the privately funded Richard R. Korzec Golf Simulator, named after a former facilities employee and golf coach beloved by the WSU community.
Renae Claffey, assistant to the president for campus communications at Worcester State, shared how important this building was for multiple reasons. The students now have a building large enough to meet the wellness needs of their students. “We now have more than 6,000 students, and the previous building was well past its useful life,” said Claffey. “The size of our student body and their needs and expectations were no longer being met with regard to athletic and recreational programming. This building allows us to offer a full range of wellness opportunities for all of our students, and more weekend and evening access for the significant percentage of our students who now live on campus.”
The building and its surrounding green space are the culmination of a decade-long $200 million campus modernization investment and completes a transition Worcester State has made since 2000 from a commuter college to a university with a substantial residential population and 24/7 campus life that will benefit commuting and residential students alike. In 2000, the school was about 20 percent residential and now close to 40 percent of full-time undergraduate students live on campus, according to Claffey.
Finding funding to build such a massive facility can sometimes be difficult for smaller universities. The Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) appropriated funding – $25 million of which was authorized in the state’s 2008 Higher Education Bond Bill – for the Wellness Center’s construction and provided oversight. The remainder of the funding for construction was provided by the Massachusetts State College Building Association, which financed $15 million, and the University.
The facility was designed by ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge and the general contractor for construction was W.T. Rich Company.