CU Denver Student Wellness Center groundbreak

The surge in CU Denver school spirit, unity and connection that started over three years ago with the launch of club sports and a lynx mascot reached a new peak Thursday with the groundbreaking for the CU Denver Student Wellness Center.

Yoga station at groundbreaking event
Groundbreaking attendees enjoy workout and wellness stations at Thursday’s celebration.

A vibrant atmosphere – complete with climbing wall, healthy food, wellness stations, Milo and the CU Denver Cheer and Dance Team – warmed the first day of fall on the site of the $43 million facility. In spring 2018, the 85,000-square-foot building will open directly northwest of the Student Commons Building.

CU Denver Student Wellness Center Director Amber Long
Amber Long, executive director of the Student Wellness Center, says the facility will have “something for everyone.”

This celebration was especially infused with energy and pride because it was a student-led initiative that made the Student Wellness Center – which will offer everything from fitness spaces to living room-like lounges to a swimming pool – a reality.

Christy Yoo, a sophomore majoring in biology, enjoyed the festive party with a large crowd of students, faculty and staff. “It will give me an opportunity to take a break between classes,” she said. “It will help the student body as a whole just to maintain our wellness. Having a place that’s unique to CU Denver will be really nice.”

‘Space to discover our best selves’

Students got a taste of what’s to come through stations centered on the six dimensions of wellness – social, physical, emotional, spiritual, financial and creative. Those aspects of wellness, and other services that will foster health and vigor, peace and calm and an overall sense of home, were highlighted by Amber Long, the new executive director of the CU Denver Student Wellness Center.

CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell
CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell chats with students at the groundbreaking celebration.
CU Denver student Scott Cao
CU Denver student Scott Cao speaks at the groundbreaking.

Besides being a place to gather and connect with peers, the holistic-oriented facility will be a “space to discover our best selves every day,” Long said. “It’s a space for shared spirit and play … it will honestly have something for everyone. It’s my goal that each and every student at some point in their time here walks through the doors and utilizes our services.”

Other speakers included CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, CU President Bruce Benson and former Student Government Association (SGA) President Scott Cao. Also in attendance were CU Regents Irene Griego, Sue Sharkey and Steve Bosley.

The Board of Regents approved the CU Denver Student Wellness Center in spring 2015, shortly after the student vote that drew a record-setting 20 percent turnout and a landslide 61 percent to 39 percent victory. A similar student vote in spring 2013 created fees to support Milo the Lynx and club sports, which continue to grow every year.

‘Incredible energy’

CU President Bruce Benson
CU President Bruce Benson speaks on the site of the new CU Denver Student Wellness Center, which will open in spring 2018.

Horrell noted that Thursday’s crowd stood within the footprint of the building, which got its start with a fall 2014 feasibility study in which students said they wanted a “space of their own” on campus. The Student Wellness Center, which is proof of CU Denver students’ determination and leadership, will answer that need, she said. “I hope this building feeds that incredible energy that the students bring to us every single day and gives them the space to create more, connect more and learn more.”

Rock wall climbing at CU Denver
Students enjoy rock wall climbing at the Student Wellness Center groundbreaking celebration.

Benson called the groundbreaking “a very special day” and thanked the team, especially the students, who brought the facility to life. He said the Auraria Campus is special to him, as he’s been involved with boards that oversee the campus for many years. He noted that the Student Wellness Center is the ninth CU Denver-serving building either constructed or remodeled during his term as president.

‘Students stepped up’

Benson praised the strong leadership of Chancellor Horrell, as well as Jerry Wartgow and Don Elliman, chancellors who immediately preceded her, for driving CU Denver’s momentum forward. “This is the direction we’ve got to go with this campus, and now we’ve got our own neighborhood here,” Benson said. “The students stepped up and really got this job done.”

Cao was SGA president in 2014-15, the year of the campus vote to increase student fees to fund the facility. He thanked his student-government peers – past leaders including Ronson Fox, Jordan Alvarez and Lubna Mazin were on hand – as well as CU Denver leadership for their support of the project.

Cao said the wellness center idea was hatched by several students riding home from a retreat in a van four years ago. He gave special praise to the work and passion of CU Denver alumna Allie Kriese, who was the student chair of the Wellness Center Project Team. “If there is one student deserving of a statue in front of the Student Wellness Center, it would be her,” Cao said.

Long said the center will employ students, further empowering the student body to develop as leaders while engaging in healthy lifestyles. “Change is in the air,” she said of the historic occasion. “It’s a great day for a groundbreaking.”

CU Denver Student Wellness Center

Progress on the CU Denver Wellness Center can be followed on Facebook here. This link – CU Denver Wellness Center Project website – provides more detail, including an up-to-date timeline. The center will:

  • be built by Saunders Construction.
  • be available for use by CU Denver students, and other members of the university community will be able to purchase memberships.
  • include fitness rooms, lounges, rooms for reflection, a three-story rock wall, student kitchen and a bicycle repair shop. It will encapsulate the six dimensions of wellness: social, physical, emotional, spiritual, financial and creative.
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