“I’ve been in this building any number of times now, and every time I come in, I’m blown away by it. It is just amazing to me.”
That is how Lee Anderson described the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex during its formal dedication on the University of St. Thomas campus yesterday afternoon, Oct. 20.
He and his wife, Penny, made the $60 million gift that helped fund three major projects that are named in their honor: a 725-car parking facility that opened on south campus early in 2009, the athletic and recreation complex, and the adjacent student center which is under construction and scheduled to open 14 months from now.
The dedication capped a series of recent events held to introduce the $52 million, 180,000-square-foot complex to the campus and outside communities. Students, staff and faculty attended an open house and ribbon-cutting that officially opened the building on Aug. 31, and an open house for alumni and community members was held Sept. 27 and 28.
“This new complex is for the students,” Anderson said in his remarks. “It has become the meet-and-greet place now, and the same thing will happen when the student center opens. That’s what has been missing, a place where they can gather and spend time together. I am very humbled and I am very pleased; this is a beautiful place.”
Anderson noted that many others have helped make the facility possible, from those who gave the small gifts to the other major donors. “There are thousands of others who should be up here being honored, too.”
Anderson’s description of the complex as a place to “meet and greet” is reflected in attendance figures. From Sept. 1 to Oct. 19, students, staff and faculty have paid 48,025 visits there. That’s an average of 1,000 visits per day and includes a stretch before the semester began and the aquatic center opened.
St. Thomas Athletic Director Steve Fritz said “we believe this complex is the finest athletic and recreation facility of its kind in the nation.”
When the complex was being planned, he said, there were three goals:
- To provide a welcoming facility that would be inviting and energizing.
- To provide venues for recreation that would enhance the well-rounded education of students and improve the wellness of the university community.
- And to provide facilities that would allow St. Thomas to continue to offer a top-10 nationally ranked varsity athletics program.
“I am pleased to report that this magnificent facility meets all these goals and so much more,” he said. “To those (who supported and built the project) all of us in the UST community say thank you, thank you, thank you.”
A large black-and-silver plaque honoring Lee and Penny Anderson was unveiled at the ceremony. It will be installed on the east, outdoor wall of the complex.
Their gift – the largest single contribution by an individual or couple to a college or university in Minnesota – launched St. Thomas’ $500 million capital campaign, “Opening Doors,” in fall 2007.
Also speaking at the dedication were Father Dennis Dease, president, and Jane Canney, vice president for student affairs. Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn, chair of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees, blessed the building.
The Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex features:
- The field house, which has twice the cubic feet of the prior one.
- The aquatic center, which has a diving well and an eight-lane pool specially designed for fast laps.
- The new Schoenecker Arena, with a 25 percent increase in spectator capacity and a third-floor mezzanine.
- The cardio area, with 80-plus pieces of equipment.
- The weight room, with 60-plus pieces of equipment.
- Two aerobic rooms where aerobics, yoga, spinning and boot-camp classes are offered.
- All new locker facilities.
- Colorful video boards, scoreboards and display boards.
- The new location of the Health and Human Performance Department and its classrooms and physiology and biomechanics laboratories.
Construction of the complex began in May 2009. At one point it was scheduled to open in October 2010. Moving up the demolition of the former athletics center, O’Shaughnessy Hall, and some good weather allowed contractors finish their work in time for the start of fall semester.
The Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex has its own Web site. The phone number for the control desk on the first floor is (651) 962-5920.