Wellesley 2025 plans to integrate sports and health facilities
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 12:10
Expect to see significant changes made to sports and health facilities in the next decade, even though the specifics are very uncertain.
The Sports and Wellness subcommittee of Wellesley 2025 has proposed a dramatic restructuring of campus wellness facilities as part the extensive campus renewal project. The committee plans to merge health services, athletic facilities and the counseling center into a single building. This is based on the finding among peer institutions that schools with integrated athletic, health and counseling services see a large bump in the usage of all three.
The plans would move the health and counseling facilities into a renovated Keohane Sports Center (KSC). The hope is that this will lead to the formation of a “wellness center” that would incorporate all aspects of physical and mental health.
“It just makes sense to put them together and there aren’t many schools that have wellness centers so Wellesley would be at the forefront,” Margo Sulmont ’13, a student representative for Wellesley 2025, said.
While the idea is promising, actually integrating the sports, health and counseling departments into a single building will take a lot of work, and a lot of money. Sports and wellness is only one of five areas that is being revamped as part of the Wellesley 2025 initiative, and other subcommittees have been looking into ways to revamp other elements of the college, like residential life and the Science Center. All five subcommittees have long wish lists, and a sixth group is looking into ways of merging the five areas into one project.
“It’s unlikely that the College can do all five projects in the time frame in the way that everyone wants,” Dean of Academic Affairs Richard French said. French chairs the Sports and Wellness subcommittee.
Still, students should expect to see a modernized wellness center when they return to campus for reunions, even if there is no guarantee that the facility will include specific features like regulation squash courts or field equipment for track and field. The committee is much more focused on big picture elements, like natural lighting and a welcoming entrance, at least until the College gets a better idea of what the financial situation will be like for the project. The details of the plan greatly depend on the pricing.
Wellesley will soon begin to actively look for donors to help fund the project, and elements of the plans could be determined by donor requests and donor interest. Until the committee knows how much money it can spend on the entire Wellesley 2025 initiative, committee members don’t want to give specifics about features that might not be included in the final project.
“The goal by the end of the year is to have a full plan for the whole Wellesley 2025 process,” French said. “But it’s going to be a while before we actually have designs and plans for what will be built and in what order.” He doesn’t want to set people up for disappointment by promising elements that the committee might not be able to afford.
“The process we’re in right now is more of a planning process,” Associate Dean of Students Michelle Lepore, another co-chair of the Sports and Wellness subcommittee, said. After the Board of Trustees reviews the proposals in April, the committee should be able to start working with an architect about ways to expand the current KSC building.
“At some point we’re going to have to add square footage,” Rosemary O’Connor ’13, the student representative for the Sports and Wellness subcommittee said.
While the committee is mainly dealing with the creation of this new wellness center, there is also talk of how to promote wellness and athletics outside of the KSC building. Committee members have proposed the creation of a satellite facility on East Campus that would have some cardio machines for students to use.
There are no exact plans for what will become of the building that currently houses Health Services and the Stone Center Counseling Services. French suggested that it might be temporarily used as “swing space,” or an area to relocate other college services while their buildings are under construction.
Despite the lack of specific plans concerning the project’s final stages, committee members are optimistic that the end result will be a much healthier student body.
“Fifty percent of students say that they don’t exercise as much as they would like to while at Wellesley,” Lepore said. She hopes that if the building becomes an exciting place for students to visit, more people will exercise on campus.
The project is also a way to bring Wellesley’s sports and health facilities up to par with those of peer institutions. “If you look at all other Division III liberal arts schools now, their sports centers are 10 times nicer. Their health centers, their counseling centers are better than what we have,” O’Connor said.
While those behind the Wellesley 2025 initiative have taken student opinions into account and looked at exit survey data to form their proposals, many students have not yet been able to weigh in on the project.
Students can discuss Wellesley 2025 with student panelists at the sustainability town hall meeting on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. in the library lecture room.