CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University closed the books on one new campus building designed to enhance student life outside the classroom, unveiling a recently opened residence hall, and opened the latest chapter in increased student activity opportunities, launching a new indoor recreation center.
As part of Homecoming 2005 activities Saturday, Oct. 29, Western held a ground-breaking ceremony to mark the beginning of a $13.5 million student recreation center adjacent to Reid Gymnasium, and celebrated the completion earlier this year of the $9.6 million Norton Road Residence Hall with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The 73,000-square-foot recreation center will include two multipurpose courts, a climbing wall, a 9,800-square-foot area for strength training and cardiovascular equipment, a three-lane indoor track, a 2,500-square-foot group exercise studio, fitness assessment rooms, locker rooms and administrative offices.
The facility, designed with significant input from students, is in keeping with the university’s goal of creating a lifetime relationship with its students, Chancellor John W. Bardo said at the 9 a.m. ground-breaking event. “You do not create that lifetime relationship just in the classroom,” Bardo said. “You also create it through the activities that take place outside the classroom and through a sense of belonging to a community.”
Bardo said the new student recreation center is part of the university’s ongoing transformation of the central portion of campus into “a true university community,” a makeover that includes the recent relocation of the road through the center of campus to establish a pedestrian-friendly corridor.
The recreation center is the third project of a three-phased effort to improve the quality of student life that began with a $4 million renovation of the 62,000-square-foot A.K. Hinds University Center, a project completed in the summer of 1997. That was followed by the addition of another 34,000 square feet of space to the University Center in a $6.8 million expansion project completed in January 2004.
“The key to creating a sense of campus community is to create a living room and a recreation room for the campus,” Bardo said. “The University Center is the living room for our students. The next part is to have a place where students can recreate and be active. That is what we begin today.”
The recreation center, when complete, will enhance what is already a beautiful and vibrant hub of student activity in the core of campus, said Steve Warren, chairman of Western’s board of trustees. “Every student should have a place where he or she can relax and stay fit,” Warren said. “Just as the student recreation center shall be located at the heart of our campus, Western’s commitment to the student shall always be at the heart of its mission.”
Robert Caruso, vice chancellor for student affairs, called the center “one of the most exciting projects ever undertaken at Western for the fitness and well-being of students.”
Julie Smith, a sophomore criminal justice major from Pisgah Forest who works as a supervisor in Western’s Fitness Center, said the new facility will provide student access to a vast array of recreational activities. “The new student recreation center is acknowledgement to all Western students that the university believes in the importance of a healthy lifestyle for its students,” Smith said.
Saturday morning’s second ceremony, the ribbon-cutting at Norton Road Residence Hall, officially dedicated the 290-bed housing facility that features private and double occupancy rooms, with common living areas and kitchens located in each wing, eight study lounges, a large multipurpose room, laundry facilities and a convenience store within the building.
It is the third student residential facility to be built at Western in the past two years to help meet demand for housing on a campus that has seen its enrollment jump dramatically. The hall is designed to provide a more home-like atmosphere and a sense of community, Bardo said at the 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting.
“We realized that the old-style resident halls weren’t going to accomplish what we wanted. They tended to create either enemies for life, because you were stuck in close quarters with people you couldn’t stand, or they tended to create small communities of four, because you had little to no interaction with the rest of the hall,” he said. “Norton Road Hall is an effort to create a different kind of living environment – one that emphasizes the value of being a part of a whole while still providing for individual life.”
Steve Woody, president of the Western Carolina University Research and Development Corp. that managed construction of the complex, called the building an example of outstanding design and construction.
“In many ways, Norton Road Hall is a signature building for Western,” Woody said. “It is in a prime location, and is plainly visible from N.C. Highway 107 as you come through Catamount Gap. This is a part of campus that is becoming a residential and recreational activity hub for students, and this building affirms our commitment to a strong residential program for the students at Western.”
Stacy Brookshire, a freshman from Greer, S.C., and president of the Norton Road Residence Hall Council, said he felt right at home when he first set foot in Norton Hall back in September.
“The job of a student can be stressful, not including all of the extra activities. Many times students are so busy in their school work and social activities that they lose the feeling of home. Home is the feeling of security and comfort you receive in times of discomfort,” Brookshire said. “Being one of the first residents through the doors at Norton Road Hall, a sense of home and comfort was present immediately as I walked in the front doors.”