Wellness and Recreation Center for SAU


$18.5 million campaign to fund largest single capital project in SAU history

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Ground has been broken for a long-anticipated Wellness and Recreation Center that is St. Ambrose University’s response to the growing demand for health and wellness facilities as a critical component of students’ academic experience.

Contributed This is a rendition of the new Wellness and Recreation Center under construction at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
This is a rendition of the new Wellness and Recreation Center under construction at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

Construction of the 80,000-square-foot center should be completed in time for students’ use in fall 2017. The center will be located adjacent to and just west of the current physical education center on the north side of campus near its Lombard Street border. A formal groundbreaking ceremony will be held April 7 at 2:30 p.m.


In announcing the public launch of the $18.5 million “Building Our Future Cam­paign,” university representatives say it will fund the largest single capital project in St. Ambrose’s 134-year history. “Re­crui­ting students, athletes and non-athletes alike, requires excellent academic offerings, talented faculty, personal attention and modern residence halls, which we have,” said Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, the university’s president. “Adding a state-of-the-art wellness, recreation and athletics facility is part of ensuring a robust and thriving St. Ambrose for years to come.”

The new center will provide exercise and activity space for the general student population, lab space for some of the university’s health and wellness-related academic programs including Kinesiology, and much-needed practice space for student-athletes who participate in the university’s 23 varsity sports.

Details about the Wellness and Recreation Center

Designed by RDG Planning and Design of Des Moines, Iowa, the building will have a distinctive half-barrel roof construction reminiscent of a 1950s-era field house. The largely brick exterior is in keeping with other campus facilities. Nu­merous windows below the roof line, and some areas with glass walls, will give the interior an open feel and provide students with views inside the building and out to the campus.

A 56,000-square-foot field house for recreation, intramurals, athletics practices and some varsity competitions comprises the largest component of the Wellness and Recreation Center. It will feature a 200-meter competition track, pole vault areas and long- and triple-jump pits and four basketball/volleyball courts.

Among the major interior features will be a 5,200-square-foot, two-story cardio workout and weight room with machines and weights more suited to recreational athletes. A 2,200-square-foot multipurpose group exercise room will be used by the Kinesiology Department for movement-type courses, by Campus Recreation for group exercise, and by the Athletics Department for cheerleading and dance team practices. An Ex­ercise Physiology lab will help serve the growing student interest in Kines­iology majors and careers related to health and wellness.

A 1,200-square-foot Club Room located near the main entry lobby will be used for events and as a con­ference room for the Kin­esiology, Athletics and Campus Recreation departments as well as for recruiting and advancement events. The lobby area will display pictures, trophies and memorabilia celebrating Fighting Bee athletics, and a new Hall of Fame area to honor accomplishments of players and coaches.

Campaign leadership

Already, the campaign has raised more than $13 million toward the $18.5 million fundraising goal, said Mike Johnson, who co-chairs the campaign with his wife Barbara (Bush) and Brian and Beth (Figge) Lemek. “The impressive total raised so far for this project includes several leadership gift commitments. Each leadership gift is of $1 million or more,” added Mike Johnson, who also is president of Clinton Engineering in Clinton.

Barbara Johnson’s late father, John “Jack” Bush, and Beth Lemek’s late father, John Figge, each served as members of the St. Ambrose University Board of Trustees. Barbara Johnson and the Lemeks are current Board of Trustees members. The Lemeks also are 1986 graduates of St. Ambrose. The campaign’s honorary chairs are Jim (’56) and Mary Hagen.

Sr. Lescinski said the Johnson and Lemeks, through their roles as campaign co-chairs, provide “a new generation of St. Ambrose philanthropic and volunteer leadership, while continuing and honoring their families’ history of engagement with our university.”

A number of commitments for the campaign have come from first-time major donors, Sr. Lescinski added. “They have been inspired to make significant gifts in order to make this dream of a new Wellness and Recreation Center a reality; something hoped for and talked about for many years.”

Mike Johnson said what gets him excited about the campaign is that the project meets the needs and desires of today’s students. “The campus residential population has more than doubled since the Physical Education Center was constructed in 1983, and the number of athletics teams has grown from eight to 23 since that time. Since 2000, the university has constructed or renovated 14 major buildings. The new Wellness and Recreation Center is part of a strategic plan the university has carefully implemented to respond to and manage growth, and to meet the expectations of prospective students and their families.”

Repurposing PE center

St. Ambrose plans to repurpose and remodel approximately 19,000 square feet of space in the existing PE center. A second weight room will be dedicated primarily to athletics teams use, and new offices will serve the Athletics Department and Campus Recreation. Varsity basketball and volleyball games will continue to be played on the Leo Kilfoy Court.


“The PE center gets used from 6 a.m. to midnight,” said St. Ambrose Associate Vice Pre­si­dent of Ad­vance­ment Sally Crino. “The Wellness and Recreation Center has long been a dream for our students and we’re thrilled to finally be bringing it to campus.”

St. Ambrose Vice President for Advancement Jim Stangle expressed confidence that “our alumni, friends and the larger community will help us achieve our goal to raise the remaining funds by the close of 2017. We will be launching an alumni-focused campaign soon. Every gift to the campaign matters, and we look forward to building the future together.”

Individuals interested in learning more about the Building Our Future Campaign can visit www.sau.edu/advancement.

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