Title: AU Wellness Center is a dream come true
The moment has arrived. Faculty, students and many friends of Anderson University gathered in front of the O.C. Lewis Gymnasium on Graceland Avenue for a few words, the turn of a shovel of dirt and the celebration of a dream come true. It's the birth of the Anderson University Wellness Center and it means millions of dollars pumped into the local economy as the building rises over the next 18 months - the largest project undertaken by AU in its 83-year history.
"This event was a life-celebrating time," said Dr. James L. Edwards, president of AU. "The groundbreaking ceremony was not long, but what made it important was that we all came together around a long-awaited moment."
A moment more than a decade in the making. The first planning session was held in 1988, two years before Edwards took the helm at AU.
"The ceremony was like underlining a truth: Put it in italics and bold! This is happening, and our whole community wanted to celebrate that," Edwards said as Ron Moore, senior vice president of AU, smiled and nodded.
"We invited some of our friends who were principal donors, those who could be with us that day. All of them certainly can't because we reach widely."
And while the new Wellness Center will set AU apart from other universities its size, will help elevate an already-stellar sports medicine and rehabilitation program, and will give AU students opportunities usually reserved for those attending Indiana University and Purdue University, the project also says something about this community.
The 121,000 square feet AU Wellness Center-actually 133,000 if you count the elevated walking track - is a $16 million project. And most of that amount will stay in this area eventually finding its way to pharmacies, grocery stores, clothing stores, churches, schools, theaters, auto dealerships and others.
"If you define local as including New Castle and two firms in Muncie, my tally, rounded off, is $11.1 million of the entire $16 million budget staying within 30 miles of Anderson," Moore said. "All but $2.3 million is staying in the state of Indiana. The steel is a big cost in a building like this, and $2 million of the $2.3 million is for steel.
"We're always very interested in giving local firms every opportunity, and that's the way we did it," Moore said. "We didn't hand over anything. Even the architects were among five firms we interviewed.
"It just so happens that our local people are obviously very competitive. We opened this up to bidders, in some cases, across the state. And our local people came through."
The Anderson architectural firm, K.R. Montgomery and Associates, has been teamed up with RDG Bussard Dikis of Des Moines, Iowa, on the project. "RDG has helped us design the core of the building. RDG is responsible for all the technical aspects of a facility that has to work as a recreational and athletic facility," Edwards said.
And once the building is standing, a jewel in AU's crown, the building also will be the pride of local firms involved in its creation.
"When you think about the future development of Anderson and Madison County, to say we've been able to do something as complex as this building using local people, it tells you about the economy of this area, the resourcefulness of this area," Edwards said. "I'd think other companies who want to locate here would be pleased to know we've been able to do something I believe they'll find impressive with the local talent we have in this community."
---Cindy Carson is the business editor for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin .