As workers put the final touches on Dakota Wesleyan University’s newest building, several rooms bear a simple request as you walk in: “This room has been final cleaned. Please do not make a mess.”

Ahead of its originally scheduled opening, the DWU/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex is nearly done and will be ready for student athletes when they return from Christmas break in January, according to DWU Vice President of Marketing and Communications Lori Essig.

The new Donna and Paul Christen Community Health and Fitness Center, located within the wellness complex, will open to the public on Jan. 4, one week from Monday.

“We are so incredibly excited. We’ve stayed within the budget, we’ve actually stayed within the timeline that we anticipated,” said DWU Executive Vice President Theresa Kriese. “It’s just been a great project for us.”

Days before Christmas, the smell of fresh paint still punctured the air as the last pieces came together on the new facility. A grand opening for the facility is scheduled for Feb. 4.

At the front of the building, which is on the south side of campus, is the community fitness center, which last week was filling with exercise machines and equipment for future members. DWU has partnered with GreatLife Malaska Golf and Fitness Club to manage the new wellness facility. The school says GreatLife will lease the wellness space from the university.

Memberships to the facility will be open to the public, and Kriese said the public can also purchase a membership to the walking track in the complex. She said that can be included as part of a membership to the fitness center, or as a separate membership just to walk.

Across the hall from the fitness center is the space dedicated to the athletic training department, supported by Avera. Essig said the room includes office space and an exam room, and will be used to help student athletes who have injuries or need rehabilitation.

Down a long hallway are two sets of lockers, one for public use on one end and another set for athlete and team use on the other. The DWU athletic logos and phrases like “DWU Tigers bleed blue” promote team spirit throughout the building, and photos celebrating different Tiger athletes adorn the hallways and walls. A large mural across from the concessions area marks what Essig described as points in DWU’s athletic history that were remarkable, for a team or individual athlete. Banners representing all of the college’s intercollegiate sports, plus cheer, also line the main entryway.

“Any time you do a facility like this, you want to tell your story,” Essig said. “What a wonderful place to highlight our student athletes and their successes over the years.”

The complex also boasts a new wrestling room, which will give DWU’s wrestling team its own space to practice. Before, Essig said the team had to unroll mats every day to practice elsewhere.

At the back of the complex is its crowning achievement, the fieldhouse. Kriese said the room includes three full basketball-sized courts in the middle, surrounded by a 200-meter track. Fully equipped for track meets, Kriese said the fieldhouse also will have a long-jump pit and pole-vault pit.

“It gives us a place to actually practice and run track all year round,” Kriese said.

In addition to provided space for the track and field team, Kriese said the fieldhouse will have batting cages for baseball and softball, a retractable net system to allow for indoor soccer practice in the middle of the room and space for bleachers.

The all-purpose Mondo sport-court flooring will also allow for tennis and volleyball, Kriese said.

“So it’s really kind of an all-purpose room,” Kriese said.

Just outside the fieldhouse is a concession and lounge area, with a full view of the track. Off to the side is another room that Kriese said can be used as a classroom or a fitness room, depending on need.

Kriese and Essig said the facility provides much-needed space for DWU’s athletic teams, which have been squeezed on practice room in the past. Kriese said athletic practices sometimes run from 2:30 p.m. until midnight to get everyone in the rotation, and Essig said track athletes have had to practice hurdles in the hallway of the Christen Athletic Center.

That’s no longer the case, starting in January, and Kriese and Essig said that means good things for DWU’s student athletes and the community.

“We’re really excited to open it to the public now, and let people see what great things our donors have helped us accomplish,” Kriese said.




The new wrestling room nears completion inside the new Dakota Wesleyan Wellness Center. (Matt Gade/Republic)
The new wrestling room nears completion inside the new Dakota Wesleyan Wellness Center. (Matt Gade/Republic)

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