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St. Ambrose

Digging in during the ceremonial groundbreaking for St. Ambrose University's new Wellness and Recreation Center are, from left, Bishop Martin Amos, Building Our Future campaign co-chairs Barb Johnson and Mike Johnson, Brian Lemek, Beth Lemek, university president Sister Joan Lescinski, Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch and Joseph O'Rourke.

Donning gold hard hats and taking gold shovels in hand, a host of dignitaries threw the first ceremonial dirt Thursday to mark the beginning of construction on St. Ambrose University’s new $18.5 million Wellness and Recreation Center.

Actually, construction already has begun on the center, located in the heart of the campus at the site of the football practice field. 

But that did not damper the celebration. 

Speaking to a gathering of about 250, made up of students, faculty and university employees, St. Ambrose president Sister Joan Lescinski said that the building has long been a dream. “Now it’s going to be a reality.”

The 80,000-square-foot building is scheduled to be open in the fall of 2017. It will house a 200-meter competition track, pole vault and long-and triple-jump pits, as well as a 5,200-square-foot two-story cardio and weight room.

Also, there will be four volleyball-basketball courts, including two wooden floor courts and two courts made of resilient flooring.

There also will be lab space for academic programs such as the kinesiology programs in exercise science, human performance and fitness and sport management.

Student athlete Jenny Lopez, a biology major from Elgin, Ill., who is heading to the Olympic trials in the women’s 20-kilometer race walk event, said, “I speak for my fellow varsity athletes, and there are about 800 of us, when I say this new center will help us grow as student athletes.

“And our teams will get better because this will help us recruit.”

Devin Hartman of Lanark, Ill., who is majoring in exercise science and who schedules activities for campus recreation, said he is eagerly anticipating the opening of the center.

“I work out and lift weights five days a week, and cannot wait to use the training facility,” he said. The building also will help the school grow its recreation activities.

Lescinski said that $13 million of the $18.5 million already has been raised.

“This new facility is the largest single capital project in the university’s history,” she said.

Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch told the gathering that St. Ambrose itself has a $200 million annual impact on the local economy. He added that the construction of the new recreation center will have a $43 million economic impact and create 300 jobs in the community.

“As a leading Midwestern Catholic University, St. Ambrose continues to evolve and grow along with the needs and interests of our students, as evidenced by our commitment to making this building a reality,” Lescinski said. “The time has come for us to provide state-of-the-art wellness and recreation and athletics facilities that will serve the whole student in body, mind and spirit.”

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