Grand opening of new gym highlights student leaders

(Photo by Tony Post) Student leaders cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the new Wildcat Center for Health and Wellness.

Weber State University’s Wildcat Center for Health and Wellness held its grand opening Wednesday, including a ribbon cutting and guided tours of the new facility. Many prominent WSU faculty and student leaders who were directly involved in bringing the building to fruition attended.

The Wildcat Center is the product of three years of student leadership and administration working together to strategize and implement the renovation of the gym.

The expansion includes an elevated pedestrian walkway, a two-three suspended track, two group exercise studios, strength training areas and locker room facilities, thanks to heavy research on student preferences by Campus Recreation employees.

Former student body president Victoria Thompson, who aided in the initiation of the project in her 2010-11 term, said she was excited about the opening of the building.

“Dreams are coming true; these are Weber Wildcat dreams coming true today!” Thompson said. “It’s so exciting to be here, and it was exciting to be a part of this, and start it, and it’s exciting to see it end.”

She said the conception of the idea for renovation came from a collaboration between student leaders, advisers and administrators.

“(Students) want to stay on campus, but they really don’t have a reason, and I feel like this facility . . . engages students, so that they can (be) healthy on a physical level and an emotional level.”

WSU President Charles Wight took the time to thank many specific people who aided in the overall process, including the contractors, WSU faculty and staff, donors and students.

“Without the $8.5 million that the students voted to tax themselves, this 20,000-square-foot facility would not have happened, so kudos to the students.”

Wight said some academic institutions focus solely on the mind, but that WSU recognized something was missing there.

“One cannot achieve a healthy mind without a healthy body. When we foster healthy bodies, we foster healthy minds.”

Jan Winniford, vice president for Student Affairs, emphasized the important role of student leadership in the process of seeing the project to completion.

“It is through their tremendous leadership — it really has resulted in what you see today,” Winniford said. “It’s a real testament to what our students can accomplish in helping us move our university forward. They didn’t just have the idea and get it going. They also served at every step, from the conditioning, the programming, the design and the construction . . . Their perspective representing the student voices was just invaluable, every step of the way.”

Jack Rasmussen, dean of education, said the facility will help better educate the public about healthy living.

“What we hope is that we educate people and help them learn more about healthy lifestyles and those sorts of things, which brings up a really great partnership with other entities which enhance, support and really provide opportunities for that kind of a lifestyle.”

Rasmussen went on to talk about his optimism for the use of the facility.

“This is such a wonderful new facility, and the opportunity to expand those opportunities for our students, for our faculty and our staff is just amazing.”

Brady Harris, president of the student senate, reiterated that student leadership played a large role in the creation of the new facility.

“I’d like to point out, with us today, the multitude of student leaders that we have here from the Weber State University Student Association . . . It speaks volumes to note that there are four years of student body presidents here today.”

Current student body president David Wilson said he was excited about the grand opening of the center.

“(It’s) so exciting, especially since it was a student initiative. From the initiation, all the way to now, it was the students’ doing, and that’s awesome.”

Wilson, who served as the traditional student senator during the planning and implementation stages of the project, is optimistic about what the building says about the impact student leadership can have.

“If we can build a building, there’s not much we can’t do. It’s pretty exciting.”