University transformed vacant property into 100,000-square-foot hub of holistic wellness and recreation
University of Mississippi officials ushered in the age of the new South Campus Recreation Center Wednesday, August 28, 2019, marking the completion of the transformation of a vacant manufacturing site into a 100,000-square-foot hub of holistic wellness and recreation.
In 2010, the university purchased the former Whirlpool property, off Chucky Mullins Drive, providing new space for expansion to the south. The vision for the property began to take shape, and university leaders worked to transform the property into a recreation center to meet the 21st century demands of the university.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday (August 28), Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks said the center will help foster openness and sense of community that will invite many in to work on their own well-being.
“The South Campus Recreation Center is a destination center for fitness, wellness and recreation, and it is also a great selling point for prospective students,” Sparks said. “I think you’ll agree that it has that ‘wow!’ factor.”
The new facility has functional training space, an indoor climbing wall, fitness space, three fitness studios, two basketball courts, a multiactivity court, a walking and jogging track, a classroom with a demonstration kitchen and a convenience store.
Besides the space for working out, the center offers services for wellness education, outdoor programming and personal training. Two fields for intramural sports, sport clubs and informal recreation are near the facility, and a sidewalk connects the building to the South Campus Rail Trail.
Sparks said he remembers when the Turner Center, the longtime campus recreation center, opened. Though the university has grown in leaps and bounds since then, there had been few updates to campus recreation facilities since that time, he said.
Current students will have a vastly different experience than he had at the university, thanks to the new center.
“Our students will not have to play intramural ball in old Martindale Hall or at the gym beside Nutt Auditorium that is now the band practice hall,” Sparks said. “This is a great facility and I am tremendously proud of what this facility means to our campus and to our community.”
Classes on physical wellness, mental health, sexual wellness and other programs designed to educate college students on making sound decisions will be offered.
The center also includes the new William Magee Center for Wellness Education, designed to educate students on alcohol and drug misuse. A grand opening celebration for the Magee Center will take place 4-6 p.m. Friday, September 6.
The facility – with the inclusion of the William Magee Center – is a testament to UM’s commitment to a holistic approach moving forward, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs,.
“Physical fitness is not just the core of this building,” Hephner LaBanc said. “Physical fitness is, in fact, only one pillar of the well-being of our community. This facility will support a spiritual pillar, an emotional pillar, a social pillar, an intellectual pillar, a cultural pillar and an environmental pillar.
“All of this is wellness and all of this is today’s recreation center.”
The work of many architects and countless Ole Miss employees went into the new $32 million flagship recreation center, which is befitting of a flagship university, said Peter Tulchinsky, campus recreation director.
“Our institutional mission is to transform lives, communities and the world by providing opportunities for the people of Mississippi and beyond through learning, discovery and engagement,” Tulchinsky said. “I can’t think of a place on our campus that better embodies that than the transformation of this facility.”
The center also will provide many opportunities for student employment, helping students grow personally and professionally during their time on campus.
“The students who walk through these doors will engage in transformational opportunities through a variety of experiences,” Tulchinsky said. “There will be students who seek to improve their mind, body and spirit through physical activity.
“There will also be students who want to transform their holistic well-being by utilizing the William Magee Center for Wellness Education. Some students will discover their leadership abilities by participation in clubs and intramural activities, while others will engage by developing their transferable skills and professional competencies through student employment.”
Sophomore psychology major Kaelyn Thompson, a Pearl native, works in campus recreation as a basketball official and customer service representative. She said her experiences in campus recreation have been formative.
“I have learned to resolve conflict and radiate confidence,” Thompson said. “I quickly had to learn how to effectively communicate with players and others, and how to trust my coworkers, while not being afraid to ask questions when I needed help.
“I also learned these things while being a mentor to new officials who had questions as well.”
She also founded the women’s basketball club team and has worked with others to help the sport grow on campus.
“I’ve been blessed with amazing teammates who are overall amazing people who want to see the club grow just as much as I do,” Thompson said.
The South Campus Recreation Center is off Chucky Mullins Drive south of Mississippi Highway 6. Rates to become a member at the facility will remain the same as at the Turner Center.
By Michael Newsom