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September 16, 2013
By Jane Tors
The E. L. Wiegand Foundation has announced an $8 million gift to support the E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center, a four-story facility to be constructed on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, offering more than 100,000 square feet of multi-use space for fitness and recreation. The significant gift will elevate the campus experience and contribute to the health, wellness and success of students for years to come. Final approval for the naming of the center will be presented to the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents.
The E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center will be constructed in the parking lot north of the Brian Whalen Parking Complex and will border North Virginia Street. It will be in proximity to the Joe Crowley Student Union and Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, in the University's student-centered mid-campus.
"Learning and development extend beyond the classroom and the total campus experience significantly contributes to the journey of students toward their future careers and lives as citizens," said University President Marc Johnson. "The E. L. Wiegand Foundation recognizes the importance of valuing the 'whole picture' of our students and investing in resources to nurture mind, body and spirit. The E. L. Wiegand Foundation Fitness Center is going to ensure that our campus more fully integrates the wellness of our students into their daily lives."
"In keeping with Mr. Wiegand's strong belief that self-preparedness leads to exciting innovation, we are proud to make this gift to the University of Nevada, Reno. The E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center completes the build-out of the new center of campus and we are delighted to play a part in helping University students meet their futures with strength and determination," said E. L. Wiegand Foundation Chairman Skip Avansino.
The E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center is envisioned as offering multiple fitness areas for weightlifting, training and a multitude of other fitness classes and activities, plus an indoor, 200-meter, 1/8th mile running track. Three full-court gymnasiums will be utilized not only for basketball, but also volleyball, tennis and other indoor-court sports. It is estimated to open in late 2016 and will be available to students, as well as faculty and staff.
The E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center will nearly triple the space dedicated to fitness and recreation at the University of Nevada, Reno. The existing Lombardi Recreation Center will continue to serve the campus fitness and recreation needs.
Opened in 1974 to serve a student enrollment of around 4,000, Lombardi Recreation was designed to primarily support physical education programs rather than training, fitness and wellness offerings. Once the E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center opens, Lombardi Recreation will continue to support academic programming and intramural programming, plus serve as the training site for the women's swimming and diving team. Early plans call for its gymnasiums to be renovated and repurposed to provide expanded training space for other Wolf Pack Athletics programs such as basketball or volleyball.
The role and impact of fitness and wellness resources on college campuses has become a sustained, national trend.
"There is a tremendous amount of research and data that connects student fitness levels to improved cognitive function, academic performance, social networks and engagement on campus, plus a decrease in stress and anxiety," said Jim Fitzsimmons, the University's director of campus recreation and wellness and the Lombardi Recreation Center.
According to Fitzsimmons, who completed his education doctoral thesis on the role of student recreation centers in the recruitment and retention of undergraduate students, surveys have shown that as many as 30 percent of students based their selection of a college or university on the fitness and wellness resources available. As many as 75 percent of students state that recreation and fitness facilities contributed to their decision to remain at an institution and successfully persist through graduation.
"As a university, we are developing and investing in our state's human capital," said Johnson. "As a Tier 1 university, we continually strive to improve our learning, research and recreational facilities. The E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center will greatly contribute to the competitiveness of this University. This kind of advancement would not be possible without the generous support of community partners such as the E. L. Wiegand Foundation."
In addition to the E. L. Wiegand Foundation gift and other potential, private funding, student leaders are joining with University administration to explore fee options that would further support the construction and operation of the E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center.
Through its impressive gifts, the E. L. Wiegand Foundation has left an indelible imprint on the region's arts, education, health and wellness and community services. Edwin L. Wiegand was a successful entrepreneur and inventor who made Reno his home in 1971. He died in 1980 at the age of 88, and the E. L. Wiegand Foundation was established in Reno in 1982 for general charitable purposes.