About 200 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests gathered in the late afternoon of Tuesday, September 13 on Worcester State University’s Binienda Green—spanning what was not long ago a roadway through campus—to celebrate the grand opening of the new $52.6 million, 99,000-square-foot Wellness Center .
“It took incredible vision and a great team to make this happen, and you all made it happen,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. She pointed out that WSU—and the 85 percent of its students who earn degrees and remain in central Massachusetts—are the backbone of the region’s economy.
WSU President Barry M. Maloney added, “Since I arrived five years ago, we have put students first. The Wellness Center completes a physical transformation of our campus into a more student-friendly place. Our aim is to keep students connected to campus and, therefore, in school and on a path toward graduation. This facility allows us to offer a full range of recreational and varsity sports opportunities, more classroom space, and a new campus quad. It will undoubtedly be the new heartbeat of the campus.”
Among the Wellness Center’s highlights are a 9,000-square-foot, two-level fitness center with treadmills, ellipticals, cycles, 25,000 pounds of weights and a circuit; a multipurpose gymnasium for intramurals and other recreational sports featuring 1,500 seats and two dividable courts and batting cages; an elevated track open to the community during certain hours; and a golf simulator.
It replaces an athletic building built in 1958 for a student population of roughly 400. George Albro, ’65, M.Ed. ’68, chair of the WSU Board of Trustees, who served as the event’s master of ceremonies, said that building was inadequate for today’s Worcester State, with a student body roughly 10 times the size of what it was then. Today, WSU has more than 6,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students.
Albro also thanked fellow trustees—past and present—and others, particularly former Trustees Board Chair John Brissette, ’88, for advocating for the facility.
The center 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.
Andrew Huy-Ngo, president of the Student Government Association and a commuter student, said that the new building will benefit students both “physically and academically.” He called the building “the new focal point on campus. It will get residents and commuter more engaged…throughout the day.”
Meghan Pini, president of the Student Athlete Advisory Council who competes on the WSU’s field hockey team, said that student-athletes couldn’t be more excited about the new facility. “This is all we could hope for and more,” she said. “No detail in this center goes unnoticed or unappreciated.”
The state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance 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. DCAMM Commissioner Carol W. Gladstone joined Department of Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago, Ph.D., on the speaking program. The remainder of the funding for construction was provided by the Massachusetts State College Building Association, which financed $15 million, and the University.
Also speaking at the celebration were Worcester’s two state senators, Sen. Harriette L. Chandler and Sen. Michael O. Moore, state Rep. John J. Mahoney, Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty, and City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr.
Craig A. Bovaird, ’77, chair of the Worcester State Foundation, spoke on behalf of the more $1 million received from private donors, and WSU’s Director of Athletics Michael A. Mudd spoke about how the facility allows the University to offer recreational sports and a full range of intramural and fitness programming.
President Maloney also thanked past WSU presidents for laying the groundwork for this transition; past and present Board of Trustees members; and state leaders and private donors for funding the facility and the equipment inside of it.
“Today, Worcester State University opens a Wellness Center that will bring students together around healthy pursuits—recreational sports, fitness, and healthy eating—encouraging healthy bodies that feed healthy minds,” he said.
The new building was designed by ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge and the general contractor for construction was W.T. Rich Company.