The University of Mississippi is set to open the doors Aug. 28 to a new state-of-the-art campus recreation facility that will significantly enhance the exercise and wellness services available to students, faculty, staff, alumni and the LOU community.
The South Campus Recreation Center will provide nearly 100,000 square feet of workout space, including a large functional training zone, an indoor climbing wall, 25,000 square feet of fitness space, fitness studios, basketball courts, a multiactivity court and other amenities. The facility is at the former Whirlpool property off Chucky Mullins Drive south of Mississippi Highway 6.
The recreation center will include services for wellness education, outdoor programming and personal training. Two fields for intramural sports, sport clubs and informal recreation will be located adjacent to the facility, and a sidewalk will link the building to the South Campus Rail Trail.
“The opening of the South Campus Recreation Center signals our university’s continued commitment to students’ health and wellness,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “The new facility finally balances the appropriate square footage to our student enrollment – more students will have consistent and convenient access to fitness opportunities.
“The facility also allows our Campus Recreation staff to provide a larger offering of recreation opportunities.”
The impact of the South Campus Recreation Center will be felt across the community, said Peter Tulchinsky, director of campus recreation.
“We really needed to meet the demand of our growing student population, and I think the new features are going to draw some community folks just because there will be nothing like this in Oxford,” Tulchinsky said. “The impact that recreation facilities have on recruitment and retention of students is huge.
“There are so many studies that show the correlation between regular exercise and personal and educational well-being, and this facility shows we are putting the health of our students and the state at the forefront.”
Since the university’s existing recreation center, the Turner Center, opened in 1983, enrollment has more than doubled, and the facility is just not big enough for the demand, he said. The Turner Center will remain open and both facilities will offer recreation and wellness services to students, faculty, staff and the community.
The South Campus Recreation Center will house the William Magee Center for Wellness Education, named in honor of UM graduate William Magee, who died of an accidental overdose after his graduation. His parents, David and Kent Magee of Oxford, made it their mission to help Ole Miss students facing their own issues with mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse.
The William Magee Center, which opens Sept. 6, is near the main entrance of the South Campus Recreation Center and will feature a variety of services to promote student wellness.
“The William Magee Center is going to be right there, front and center, in the main entrance,” Tulchinsky said. “Students will have to pass it on their way into the building. I think it’s going to bring a lot more attention to wellness services as well as the importance we place on the well-being of our students.”
The center not only will focus on education and support of students with substance abuse issues, but it also will offer resources to help every aspect of student well-being, Tulchinsky said.
“We will educate them on how things like exercise can impact academic performance,” he said. “And there’s the element of healthy decision-making and other factors we’re educating students on that can impact how successful they are on campus and in school.”
Administrative offices for both the Department of Campus Recreation and the Department of Parking and Transportation Services will be at the recreation center. The facility will serve as a campus transportation hub, with more than 700 parking spaces, service on the Oxford University Transit bus lines, and shuttles to main campus.
The $32 million recreation center has been years in the making. The facility is housed in what was a warehouse on the former Whirlpool property.
Tulchinsky said the building offers a variety of spaces, some large and some small, that provide a communal atmosphere that he hopes will encourage community building and interaction.
“You can stand at one point and see people on the track or on cardio machines or playing basketball and on the climbing wall,” he said. “The openness of the space will maybe open some eyes for folks that say, ‘Hey, that looks fun; maybe I should try that.'”
The center will celebrate its opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 28.
“I think this facility will provide a space that doesn’t exist within a 45-minute radius of Oxford,” Tulchinsky said. “I think having the equipment we have and the programming in the building will make it kind of a one-stop-shop for fitness-related services.”
Rates to become a member at the facility will remain the same as at the Turner Center. To see rates and sign up, visit https://campusrec.olemiss.edu/
Tulchinsky said he hopes the new facility becomes a community gathering spot, bringing together students, faculty, staff and LOU residents.
“This building shows our institutional commitment to student well-being,” Tulchinsky said. “It will be a very influential component for students who are making a college decision because it provides a space where you can take students, and there’s a ‘wow factor.'”
For more information about the South Campus Recreation Center, visit https://campusrec.olemiss.edu/
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