COEUR d’ALENE — The students of North Idaho College asked, and the college community answered.
The new Student Wellness and Recreation Center opened its doors Monday, providing a spacious, modern facility for students to exercise their bodies while exercising their minds.
“Students have been asking for a building like this for about 15 years," Jessica Bennett, NIC's director of wellness and recreation, said Wednesday morning.
"About three years ago, things really started moving," she said. "We had a great collaboration across our campus with staff, faculty and the administration. The board of trustees supported and approved this facility, the dormitory housing commission supported and approved the bonding for this facility and that’s when things really started going. Everything sort of aligned."
But it didn't happen without the voice of the students. The Associated Students of NIC (ASNIC) surveyed its student population and heard an overwhelming "yes" when asking students if they felt a campus recreation center was necessary.
"ASNIC did see a want from the students and somewhat of a need, especially from kids who live on campus," said ASNIC president and business administration student Caleb Weeks. "There wasn't really a gym in the area that fit their financial needs and also a gym that was within moderate traveling distance. There are students on campus who don’t have a car, and in the winter, that sucks."
And it's the students who are willing to fund this 30,000 square-foot, $7.95 million facility. Students who are enrolled full time have free access to the center, but $87 of their student fees per semester help pay for it. Part-time students (11 credits or less) have the option to have a membership, but they pay $7.25 per credit multiplied by the number of credits needed to reach 12. An example from www.nic.edu explains it that "part-time student taking nine credits would need three credits to be a full-time, fee-paying student at 12 credits, therefore 3 x $7.25 = $21.75 for the semester."
"We’re actually allowing part-time students full access until the add/drop date so they’re able to experience the facility and make that decision on Sept. 6 whether they’d like to opt in,” Bennett said. "We’ve had great feedback from our students and it’s been steady."
General studies student Kathryn Merrill, 21, of Newport, Wash. said when she found out that part of her student fees are going toward the recreation center, "at first I was shocked."
"I was like, ‘Wait, why am I paying for that? Why am I paying extra?’" she said. "But it’s included in the tuition."
Merrill, who is also an employee of the recreation center, is pleased with how the student contributions go back to the students.
"We funded it. Especially working here, knowing that I funded my job, I’m just like, ‘That’s awesome, I’m getting my money back for it,’" she said. "Even if you don’t work here, you come in and you’re getting your money’s worth out of it.”
Part-time general studies student Robin Anderson, 26, of Grand Junction, Colo. said she thinks the $87 per semester is a fair price.
"Compared to a lot of gym memberships, sure,” she said. “I only have to pay $7.25 for the whole semester and I think it’s great."
NIC, Lewis-Clark State College, University of Idaho and Boise State University students are eligible for memberships, as well as NIC employees, employee spouses, retirees and alumni association members who graduated in spring 2016 or later. The facility is closed to the public except for the climbing wall, which is open to the community Thursday through Sunday during open climb hours. The fees vary and are listed at http://bit.ly/2ir8tyJ.
The facility offers many options for students' wellness needs, including a strength training area, cardio equipment, separate rooms for fitness classes and a high school regulation-sized gymnasium.
NIC's vice president for student services, Graydon Stanley, said NIC was one of the only colleges in the state that lacked a recreation center. Facilities like this are attractive to students and actually contribute to student success, he said.
“It might surprise people to think that this is a huge part of that," he said. "For students to be employed here or participate in activities outside of the classroom, there are a lot of studies that show those students are more successful. They stay here and complete their degree and then they transfer, so all three of these things — to recruit, to retain and to complete — this really adds a lot to that. This is the missing part that we didn’t have.”
A ribbon cutting and open house for the NIC Student Wellness and Recreation Center will be from 2-4 p.m. Sept. 7. The open house will include food, music and a free climb on the climbing wall.
The center is located south of River Avenue and east of Winton Hall on the NIC campus.