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Working body and mind

Many of today's college students want to exercise more than just their minds, and area schools are taking notice. Wellness centers, often resembling fancy health clubs, are popping up on campuses across the country, and the Fargo-Moorhead are...


Many of today's college students want to exercise more than just their minds, and area schools are taking notice.

Wellness centers, often resembling fancy health clubs, are popping up on campuses across the country, and the Fargo-Moorhead area is no exception.

Minnesota State University Moorhead is in the early stages of planning a new wellness center on campus.

MSUM officials say it could become a permanent home for the Hendrix Health Center and ease the struggle for workout time in Nemzek Hall between students, athletic programs and phy ed classes.

"Fitness has taken a larger role on campus in the last decades, and there are more students who want to use the same-sized space," said Warren Wiese, vice president of student affairs at MSUM. "This would be a way to address that need."


North Dakota State University and Concordia College are both enjoying success with new wellness centers or fitness facilities.

"I think students now, as compared to years ago, are more concerned about their well-being," said Gary Narum, director of the NDSU Wellness Center.

Trend toward fitness

A building boom in recreation centers has been under way since the early 1990s, according to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association.

The college trade group's 725 member institutions have 1,546 rec centers, nearly half built since 1995, including

25 percent built since 2000.

Sixty percent of the nation's colleges and universities have rec centers, and on average, about 75 percent of students use them.

About 950 students visit the NDSU Wellness Center on any given Monday, whether to work out, consult student health services, drop off their children at the child-care center, receive free tutoring or check their e-mail, said assistant director Angie Nelson.


In just its second year of operation, 4,600 students have signed up to use the center.

Before graduating from NDSU in 2000, Nelson served on a student committee that helped design the center.

For many students, joining private health clubs isn't a viable option, she said.

"Some of the major obstacles for students are time, transportation and cost," she said.

No vacancies

The growth of women's and club sports has 42-year-old Nemzek Hall busting at the seams, MSUM athletic director Katy Wilson said.

Things recently got so bad, MSUM banned club teams from practicing in the school's indoor athletic facilities.

And students who want to get an indoor cardiovascular workout on campus are often out of luck.


"We have no space for that," Wilson said. "We have just a handful of treadmills in the whole building. Students have to sign up and just wait in line. It's absurd."

Last spring, the MSUM Student Senate approved a $50 flat fee per semester to support the construction and operation of a new wellness center.

Preliminary plans call for a fitness and health facility that would include the Hendrix Health Center.

MSUM is building a 7,400-square-foot temporary home for the health center after mold was discovered last winter in its current home in the basement of Dahl Hall.

The health center is expected to move into its new home, located next to the Roland Dille Center for the Arts, during the Christmas break, Wiese said.

MSUM is using the NDSU Wellness Center as a model for its own facility, Wiese said.

The MSUM Board of Trustees must permit bonding for the project, and the student fee would pay off the bonds, Wiese said.

NDSU students are paying $38 per semester to pay off the $5 million in bonds issued for their wellness center.


A new wellness center at MSUM would be "wonderful" for students, Wilson said, but costs will play a role in shaping the facility.

"I think there'll have to be a compromise of what will be on our wish list and what we can realistically afford," she said.

Meeting the demand

Fulfilling student demand for top-notch exercise and health facilities has a side benefit, college officials say.

"We also look at it as a recruiting opportunity," said Tom Iverson, who oversees the fitness areas at Concordia College. "So many students are coming from areas where this equipment is readily accessible to them."

In response to student requests, Concordia spent about $450,000 last summer to add a 4,000-square-foot mezzanine at Olsen Forum.

The new area boasts 11 weight stations and 27 cardio machines, from treadmills and stair-steppers to elliptical machines and stationary bikes.

"Over the last several years, demand has been higher and the interest has been higher," Iverson said. "The use of our equipment is very good, as we had hoped it would be."


The University of North Dakota also spent $275,000 last summer on equipment to fill a temporary wellness center in Hyslop Sports Center.

UND dedicated 9,000 square feet of space in Hyslop for the temporary center until a more extensive remodeling of the facility can be completed. Last spring, students approved a $50-per-semester fee to fund the Hyslop renovation.

Along with offering a healthy lifestyle for students, wellness centers are having an unexpected side effect, said Laurie Betting, director of the UND center.

"Wellness centers are becoming the equivalent of the family rec room," Betting said. "It's a social gathering place, and you learn a lot of skills you aren't going to learn in the classroom."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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