Student health and recreation center coming to North Campus

Project in the works to build wellness building closer to main student population

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Since the 2005-06 school year, UB has taken $3.50 from each student’s comprehensive fee to fund a new student health center on North Campus.

Now 13 years later and with close to $2 million in the “Reserve Wellness Building” account, the university is moving forward with a “holistic approach” to build a student wellness center. This includes both health and recreation services, as well as mental health counseling and wellness education according to A. Scott Weber, vice president for student life. Most of the planning for the project will go through the Finance and Administration Office, Student Life, and Athletics as well as significant student input. The structure would be built on Lee Road by Lake LaSalle, according to Weber.

The project –– which will cost well over the $2 million raised ­­–– will receive additional funding from other sources including Student Life and Athletics, according to UB spokesperson John Della Contrada.

“Ultimately, we plan on seeking a student referendum to demonstrate support for this project and how it will serve our students,” Weber said in an email. “Students have been very positive in the past when asked to support this type of project and we will want to reaffirm this support … .”

Such a referendum, Weber said, will likely happen in fall 2018.

The current planning started in November of last year, based around a 2014 plan for a new recreation center. The university is issuing a request for quotation (RFQ) for a professional consultant on the project, according to Della Contrada.

As part of the planning process, student and university leaders will tour other college’s facilities to see how their centers operate. The professional consultant would also find current wellness centers that achieve “our more holistic vision of mind, body and soul,” according to Weber.

“This project is much more than a health service office and will require significant thought and coordination from many people,” Weber said.

The university has been aware of the student’s need for a new health center as well as a new recreation center, according to Della Contrada. One of Weber’s major goals has been the development of such a center since becoming the vice president of Student Life in January of last year.

As The Spectrum reported in November 2017, there have been several unsuccessful plans in the past to relocate Student Health Services to North Campus. The current primary medical clinic for students in Michael Hall is located on South Campus where only one in seven on-campus students live.

Most plans for a new health center ran into funding and space issues.

Despite these previous problems, Susan Snyder, the director of Student Health Services, is optimistic about Weber’s vision.

Weber spoke with Snyder several times since November about the project. They have discussed “essential space elements” for the structure, including exam rooms, treatment rooms and specialty clinic spaces.

Snyder hopes planning from the university combined with input from the student population will result in a “wonderful, highly utilized, multipurpose facility,” Snyder said.

Weber described student input as “very important, significant and critical.”

For student leaders, this is welcomed news.

Student Association President Leslie Veloz, a senior psychology and English major, said she has not yet been briefed on specifics, but feels the initiative should prioritize student needs. She hopes the university will have a survey so students may provide direct input. A center with extended hours, for example, would be a “dream” for Veloz.

“There would be a lot more opportunity for students to seek assistance when needed by not being deterred by a 15-minute bus ride [to South Campus],” Veloz said.

Veloz is hopeful this plan will pan out as students and administrators are now both pushing for it.

UB Council Student Representative Mike Brown is particularly excited about a combined health and recreation center, describing the idea as a “1Capen of wellness.”

Brown said that recreation options are huge issues for students with Alumni Arena on North Campus and Clarke Hall on South Campus both failing to meet the needs of the large student population.

“It’s definitely good that they’re not just going to bring Michael Hall up to North Campus but are instead offering more amenities, especially recreation,” Brown said.

Looking ahead, Brown is also optimistic the project will finally happen.

“It’s something that we as student leaders have always been advocating for,” Brown said. “It’s good that they’re listening and hopefully it’ll pay off.”

Dan McKeon is the copy chief and can be reached at dan.mckeon@ubspectrum.com.