The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith this week unveiled a new $11 million recreation and wellness center. The 47,000-square-foot rec and wellness center boasts a rock-climbing wall, a fitness space, a recreational lobby area, basketball and volleyball courts, and additional rooms for multipurpose use, according to a release from the university.
At the Aug. 22 ribbon cutting, Chancellor Paul B. Beran said the center’s creation is “a huge exercise in the democratic process” because members of the Student Government Association (SGA) led the effort to build the rec center, holding a student-body vote to increase the student activity fee—about $100 per semester, according to the Fort Smith Times Record—to fund the center. The SGA then defended its proposal in front of the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees before the resolution could be voted on by students. The resolution ultimately passed in a special election with more than 2,000 students (about 30 percent of students) voting for it, SGA President Austin Lloyd told the newspaper. The university, the fifth largest in Arkansas, had 6,700 students last fall, according to the university. Groundbreaking occurred in spring 2014.
“To truly prepare students for successful lives, a university must do more than simply educate and stimulate students’ minds. It must instill healthy habits that they will carry with them long after they graduate,” Beran told the Times Record. “The students, staff and faculty who use this new facility will create lifelong health habits that can lower illness and make us healthier, happier, smarter people.”
“I think this facility is important because, for us in SGA, sometimes we don't get to see all of our impact," Lloyd said. “Sometimes, they happen years and years down the road, and so for those who got to return today and for those who will come in years later, this is important that what we do does matter, even if we never get to reap the benefits of seeing the results.”
John Post, director of public information at the university, told Club Industry that the old center was built in 1965 and renovated in 2006. Several classes, such as Zumba, yoga, cycling, cardio dance, and strength training, will continue to be offered there. It is not open to the public at this time.