CU Denver students at Wellness topping off

It’s fitting that the CU Denver Student Wellness Center brims with opportunities to speed your pulse because, as student Alex Pong observed at the topping-off celebration, the facility will be the new heartbeat of our vibrant campus in the city.

The June ceremony attracted about 150 CU Denver students, faculty and staff as the final beam was hoisted onto the building at the corner of Speer Boulevard and Auraria Parkway. The energy that has infused the Student Wellness Center project – beginning with the student-driven effort that envisioned “a space of their own” and surged into last fall’s groundbreaking celebration – keeps growing and fueling everything that the center promises to become.

CU Denver Student Wellness Center staff
Meet your Student Wellness Center staff (and Milo the Lynx). At the topping-off celebration are, from left, Susie Lederer, peer educators coordinator; Kyle Smith, assistant director for wellness and outdoor pursuits; Milo the Lynx, mascot; Amber Long, executive director; Lauren Brown, assistant director for facilities and operations; and Brett Lagerblade, assistant director for competitive sports and camps.

Amber Long, executive director of the Student Wellness Center, channeled that anticipation at the topping-off event. “Everything is a possibility right now, and the energy behind this project is phenomenal,” she said. Long encouraged the CU Denver community to bring her ideas they have for activities, partnerships and programming in the 85,000-square-foot facility that will feature a swimming pool, climbing wall, gymnasium, lounges, bike shop, outdoor pursuit center and fitness rooms.

‘Heart and soul of campus’

Raul Cardenas, CU Denver vice chancellor for Student Affairs, signs beam
Raul Cardenas, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, signs the gold topping-off beam at the June celebration.

The center is scheduled to open during spring semester 2018, and Pong, the outgoing Student Government Association (SGA) president, can’t wait. “This is really building our CU Denver identity. This is the legacy we will be leaving the university, and future students will know that this is now the heart and soul of our campus,” he said. “There is a lot this campus provides, and it’s forever growing. That’s why we’re so excited about this.”

How’s this for excitement: On every floor of the holistic-wellness facility, CU Denver students, faculty and staff will find activities to get their pulse pounding, as well as comfy lounges to kick back, relax and enjoy spectacular views of downtown Denver. The third floor takes relaxation to an even higher level with two quiet rooms where students can enjoy a power nap before heading to their next class.

CU Denver’s “front door” in the Mile High City, already impressive with the Student Commons Building, will be even more modern and welcoming with the arrival of the Student Wellness Center. This three-story structure, like the 2014-opened Student Commons, is being built by Saunders Construction.

What you’ll find in the wellness center

Students sign topping-off beam for CU Denver Student Wellness Center
Students, faculty and staff signed the gold topping-off beam before it was hoisted atop the CU Denver Student Wellness Center.

Amenities abound for fitness …

  • Six-lane swimming pool and hot tub
  • Two-story climbing wall and bouldering wall
  • Three-court gymnasium: two wood courts (basketball/volleyball courts) plus a multi-activity court
  • Weight room
  • Outdoor Pursuits Center (camping gear, snowshoes, etc. available for checkout)
  • Bike shop

AND wellness…

  • Personal and group training
  • Group exercise classes (yoga, Zumba, etc.)
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation/reflection rooms
  • Food pantry
  • Valet lunch and commuter kitchen
  • Quiet/rest room
  • Lactation room
  • Education programming around the seven dimensions of wellness (social, physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, financial and creative)

‘It’s our space. It’s our family, our place to be.’ — Amber Long, CU Denver Student Wellness Center executive director

AND relaxation, nutrition and fun…

  • Game room
  • Lounge and charge bar
  • Student kitchen
  • Demonstration kitchen
  • Ink! Coffee shop

‘Pride in our school’

CU Denver student Ryan Kalmbach looks forward to using the swimming pool and climbing wall, but he’s also excited about the “community aspect” of the Student Wellness Center. Kalmbach, a junior majoring in marketing, said the facility represents the evolution of CU Denver’s community. “It shows that we take pride in our school, and we put a priority on making sure students feel welcome to have a space to go get food, relax, swim or workout,” he said. “I think all of that is an important part of college life.”

Aleena Sarwana, a junior majoring in human resources management and incoming vice president of the SGA, said the center will be an oasis that allows students to tide over time between classes. “This wellness center is a new opportunity for students to stay on campus and have a fun college experience, because you’re hanging out with friends or working out,” she said.

Wellness Center donor Joanne Posner-Mayer
Student Wellness Center donor Joanne Posner-Mayer signs the topping-off beam. The Posner Family Kitchen will be a comfortable place for students to enjoy a meal and hang out between classes.

Sarwana, Kalmbach and Pong joined the throng of students, faculty and staff who signed the gold-painted beam that was affixed to the top of the structure. Milo the Lynx was on hand for the topping-off festivities, as were numerous university officials and other dignitaries. Also in attendance was Joanne Posner-Mayer, who generously made a donation to the Wellness Center; her family owned a hardware store that many decades ago was located where the Auraria Campus now sits. The Posner Family Kitchen will be a comfortable place for students to enjoy a meal and hang out between classes.

Give to Student Wellness Center

If you would like to contribute to the CU Denver Student Wellness Center, please go to the give now page for the Wellness Center fund.

Raul Cardenas, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, praised student leaders for pushing the wellness center project forward three years ago with a feasibility study. “This building really puts a stake in the ground, speaking to the students’ desire to create a broader community and a broader sense of belonging to our campus,” he said. “I’m really excited that the students took on this initiative and it will be forever remembered: Their works and their dreams came true.”

Campus landmark, community feel

Victoria Zahourek smiled as she watched topping-off attendees “tour” the flexible-use facility via a virtual reality video provided by SmithGroup JJR. Zahourek is a CU Denver student – she’s halfway through the Master of Engineering in the Construction Engineering and Management program – and an engineering intern for Saunders Construction on the wellness center project. She is proud to note that the center will be environmentally friendly and LEED-certified.

“It’s an honor to be working on a project that, from the ground up, will be a campus landmark,” she said. “This building is designed for increased wellness – mental, spiritual and physical wellness – and I’m directly involved with that. Academics sometimes forget about those aspects of college life.”

Forklifting final beam to CU Denver Student Wellness Center
The final beam, adorned with CU Denver community signatures as well as flags, is forklifted to the Student Wellness Center.

Before being lifted to its sky-high perch, the gold beam sat on a rise in the grassy courtyard between the Student Commons Building and the Student Wellness Center. Standing tall atop the beam were a U.S. flag, a Colorado flag, and a small tree – a triumvirate that may figuratively represent the CU Denver community of students, faculty and staff. The beam itself was emblematic of the many CU Denver alumni who represent our public urban research university’s strong foundation and history.

Follow the Center’s progress

You can follow the Student Wellness Center’s progress on the website. Also, be sure to “like” the CU Denver Student Wellness Center on Facebook.

Student fees cover the facility’s use by CU Denver students. Memberships are also open to university faculty and staff as well as alumni and their sponsored guests.

“It’s our space,” Long said. “It’s our family, our place to be.”

For photos and updates of other construction projects taking place on the CU Denver campus, please click here.

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