UNR’s new fitness center receives $8M grant


Photo by Natasha Vitale
Marc Johnson, president of the University of Nevada, Reno makes a big announcement on Sept. 16, 2013. / Photo by Natasha Vitale

Today the E. L. Wiegand Foundation announced its contribution to a new fitness center with an $8 million donation to the University of Nevada, Reno. This is the fifth largest donation in the university’s history.

Accepting the gift on behalf of the entire campus and the Board of Regents, university president Marc Johnson announced, “This is the lead gift in creating a reality that really focuses on building out the whole human capital dimension of the university.”

The four-story fitness center will be over 110,000 square feet, nearly triple the existing space in the Lombardi Recreation Center. It will be built on what is now the metered parking lot in front of the Joe Crowley Student Union, on the corner of 15th Street and N. Virginia Street. The short-term parking will be moved to the excess capacity in the Brian Whalen and Athletics parking complexes.

According to Johnson, the proposed E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center comes as an investment for both an expected increase of three thousand students, and as a tool to help students reach their full potential.

“What if we put a smart brain on a weak body? It doesn’t perform to its greatest ability,” Johnson said.

The university president also pointed out that quality fitness is key in attracting more students, and this center will help the institution grow to its goal of twenty-two thousand students over the next decade.

The total cost of the fitness center is estimated at approximately $46.3 million. Now with the recent $8 million grant, the remainder will be calling upon a $30.6 million long-term debt, which will be paid off in student capital improvement fees, and a proposed new student fee for an additional $9 million. The student fee will come at a cost of $15 per student per semester.

The Lombardi Recreation Center will still be available for the pool, and racquetball courts, with extra space repurposed as a practice facility for volleyball and basketball. Unlike the current center, E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center will not have an optional membership fee for students, but rather will be included in their tuition fees.

“Our intention is to cover the operating cost in student fees so that every student is a member and every student will have access,” Johnson said.

Kristen Avansino, E. L. Wiegand Foundation’s president and executive director, said they made the largest donation in its 31-year history for valued “whole picture” of students, adding that education alone isn’t sufficient to nurture “body, mind and spirit”. The foundation voted unanimously to gift UNR with this large contribution.

“Our students know they need discipline and they need strength to compete in this world,” Avansino said.

Although the fitness center still needs to clear more hurdles before it reaches the construction phase, it is expected to start in early 2015 nearing completion in late 2016.