Wellness Center to open

Published 8:43 pm Friday, October 22, 2010

THE NEW STUDENT WELLNESS CENTER will open its doors on Tuesday following a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday. The new center is the first building built specifically for students since the college opened in 1973. The ceremony will take place near the fountain at the entrance near the Student Center.|Carol Heard

A new building that Bainbridge College students can call their own will open to them on Tuesday.

BC will host a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Student Wellness Center on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 3 p.m. near the fountain at the building’s entrance that faces the sidewalk between the Continuing Education Center and the Student Center.

The more than $20 million building—which is being paid for by a $125 per student, per semester fee—will allow BC students to work out on 40 new cardiovascular machines, 40 weight-training stations, play basketball or volleyball inside its polished courts, walk on an elevated track surrounding the court, play ping-pong or billiards, eat in a 150-seat dining cafeteria, and purchase books and supplies from a well-appointed bookstore.

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“It will give them a place to be for the first time since the college was built,” said Bainbridge College President Tom Wilkerson.

The building will allow students to casually gather or informally participate in sports or exercise. It is the first building dedicated to student life since the college was constructed in 1973.

The building will also house the college’s first tiered classroom and have a multi-purpose room that could include instruction on aerobics.

But more importantly, those same students will be able to attend graduation ceremonies in a facility that Bainbridge College can call its own, Wilkerson has said. The 2,500-seat auditorium with a big “BC” in its center will host its first graduation ceremony this spring.

“There’s a huge ‘wow’ factor,” said Mark Elliott, vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle, the Atlanta firm that oversaw construction of the building. “I’m certain you’re going to get that reaction from students when they walk in here.”

The Wellness Center’s ribbon cutting will also be two years to the day from when the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center first opened its doors in 2008.

And what a difference between the two projects: The Wellness Center was within the contract timeframe and budget; principals on this project say there was not one cross word uttered, and there was not one change order.

“Kirbo was a different-colored horse,” Wilkerson said. “This is as far from Kirbo as you could humanly be. I’m grateful for that.”

The contractor for the Wellness Center was Allstate Construction of Tallahassee, Fla., the same firm that built the new Bainbridge High School and “fixed” the Kirbo Center. The architects were Hastings and Chivetta Architects of St. Louis, Mo.

As opposed to the Kirbo Center, which served as a model of how not to do, the Wellness Center is becoming a model around the state of how to complete a four-story, 75,000-square-foot building on time, within budget and with no change orders.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the Wellness Center was in August 2009, and at that time, Wilkerson said the new building will change fundamentally and forever the face of Bainbridge College, and it would fulfill a promise made more than 36 years ago to provide a quality education for everyone who enrolled at Bainbridge College.

Wilkerson, who will retire at the end of the year as his successor is undergoing the final interview processes, said there has been a lot of talk about instituting an athletic program.

He said that’s a possibility down the road, but not soon.

“I won’t do anything as president to take money out of the academic programs to support athletic programs,” Wilkerson said.

He said the more creative route to create an athletic program would be for individuals or entities to endow an athletic program, let it become self-supporting so that administrators aren’t squeezing money from various academic departments in order to sustain an athletic program.

“I think the real effort for the new president is going to have to be to get the space, the staff and the faculty for the 8,000 students who will be here in 2020,” Wilkerson said.