Standing at the site of a former campus athletics landmark, members of the Oklahoma Baptist University community celebrated groundbreaking for a new university wellness center and a series of athletic facility projects Friday afternoon. The collection of projects represents an investment of more than $13.5 million on the Shawnee campus.Nearly 200 people, including OBU trustees, students, faculty, staff, and Shawnee civic and community representatives gathered under sunny skies at the location on the west side of the campus.
"It is hard to begin this event without acknowledging Clark Craig Fieldhouse," said Dr. Norris Russell, OBU director of athletics. "It was truly a multipurpose facility serving OBU for many years."
The fieldhouse, home to OBU's varsity basketball games from 1948 to 1982, was razed in late January. The site, on University Street, just west of the university's Noble Complex for Athletics, is cleared and ready for construction of a new wellness center. The two-story facility, encompassing nearly 59,500 square feet, will provide an assortment of intramural and fitness resources for the campus.
The groundbreaking also signified the start of several athletic facility projects. The Noble Complex, which opened in 1982, will be expanded by nearly 17,000 square feet, and an additional 13,000 square feet of existing area in the athletic complex will be renovated.
"OBU is engaged in multiple construction projects which will enhance the university's facilities," said Dr. Mark Brister, OBU president. "These enhancements increase the resources of our kinesiology and leisure studies academic division, meet the needs of our 16 varsity sports programs, and provide modern facilities and robust intramural and recreation programs for our entire campus community."
University officials said construction projects will begin in earnest following completion of OBU's spring sports seasons.
The overall plans include:
-- The wellness center, featuring three basketball/volleyball courts; cardiovascular and weight lifting equipment; a two-story climbing wall; a one-tenth-mile walking/jogging track; aerobics, assessment and events rooms; three racquetball courts; new locker room access to OBU's existing junior Olympic swimming pool; and additional office space.
-- Expansion of the Noble Complex by nearly 16,600 square feet with construction of new locker rooms and offices for men's and women's basketball, and a 3,125-square-foot event space overlooking the west end of the 2,400-seat Mabee Arena.
-- Renovation of nearly 12,745 square feet of the Noble Complex, providing expanded space for classrooms, athletic training, varsity sports weight lifting facilities, and faculty and athletic offices.
-- Expansion of the current baseball/softball building by 4,125 square feet, as it becomes the home of OBU's indoor and outdoor track teams.
-- A new varsity track and field facility, located at the corner of MacArthur Street and Airport Road.
-- A new baseball park on OBU's north campus property, joined by a new locker room and workout facility.
- Lighted intramural fields which will replace Worten Field, OBU's current track facility.
"There is potential for further expansion for that space, as more than half of our student body participates in intramurals," said Brister.
"We believe that all of these projects will greatly enhance the university's ability to attract and retain students in the coming years," said the president. "We're grateful to be here today for this momentous occasion."
"Truly, this is a blessed occasion," said Russell. "May we move forward with the spirit that has made OBU great."
Approximately 50 individuals participated in actual groundbreaking activities, as representatives from the student body, the local community, OBU trustees, faculty, staff, and architect and construction representatives took turns shoveling dirt at the site.