With the completion of the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center on campus at the University of Nevada, Reno, the university looks to new capital improvement projects.
The fitness center opened its doors to the community and the media last Wednesday, Feb. 15, during an open house showcasing nearly every room of all four floors of the $47 million project.
“There’s something for every person on every floor,” said Sheena Harvey, the sports and events coordinator at the Wiegand Center. “I don’t think we missed anybody. People still have to go up to Lombardi and swim, but other than that I think we’ve covered everything here.”
Upon entrance, one stands immediately adjacent to a towering “fitness stairway,” leading from the bottom floor to the top. Trudging upward, one passes a field of weight-lifting machines that eventually fade into a wide-open CrossFit area.
On the second floor, there are exercise-specific rooms: yoga, pilates, rowing, Zumba, and others. The third floor consists of three full-length basketball courts near a cardio area equipped with treadmills and stationary bikes. The staircase ends at the foot of a one-eighth mile running track that overlooks nearly all 108,000 square feet of the facility.
In the 2013-14 school year, University of Nevada students voted on and passed a referendum that allowed each undergraduate be charged $15 per semester for the facility and $30 per semester for operations once it opened.
“The students particularly chose this funding mechanism so that every student is paying for it up front and each additional activity doesn’t cost any more,” UNR President Marc Johnson said.
Ian Reh, a junior at the University of Nevada, has already visited the new facility five times in its opening week.
“I would say the lighting and the space,” Reh said regarding major differences between the new Fitness Center and Lombardi Recreation Center. “I think it’s fine [students] still pay for it because they still have the ability to use it anytime. I mean it’s the same thing as signing up for a gym membership. You’re paying for it and you usually won’t go, so I think that every kid ought to see it’s not a big price to pay for having a state of the art gym accessible at any time.”
Johnson echoed this sentiment and gave disillusioned students and staff a cause for hope.
“We’ll be looking at a groundbreaking in late spring for a new arts building. It’s about 37,000 square feet of new facilities with practice rooms for band, a bigger museum and a recital hall of 300 seats,” Johnson said.
Johnson also disclosed that the university has legislation before the Nevada Legislature asking for a new engineering building. Johnson said Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed the state would pay for half the cost of constructing the potential new building.
According to the UNR College of Engineering, the University has committed $12 million in renovations out of an expected $80 million needed to completely fund the complex. Johnson said he hopes they can break ground sometime in 2018.
On-campus parking is a common dilemma for University of Nevada students. One of the larger lots was excavated for the Wiegand Center’s groundbreaking in June 2015.
“I’ve just got a report this week on our parking demands for the next five years,” Johnson said. “We are likely going to build another parking garage and it needs to be on the south side of campus.”
The University of Nevada, Reno campus is swelling. High rates of incoming freshmen have increased funds for capital improvements. Bruce Shively, the university’s budget director, and his department released a report that estimated an additional 3,200 students by 2020. Governor Sandoval’s budget recommendation for the 2018 fiscal year is $222 million, just over $17 million more than that of 2017.
Beyond more large-scale capital improvement projects, UNR also looks to hire hundreds more faculty members by 2020. Shively’s report calls for improvement of student-to-faculty ratio, aiming at a change from 22:1 to 18:1. Of the future positions, 272 will be tenure-track.
The landscape of the University of Nevada, Reno, will continue to change over the coming years.
Gabriel Selbig can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.