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Minnesota West breaks ground on new athletic facility (with video)

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe City representatives and Minnesota West Community and Technical College officials break ground for the Health and Wellness Center Wednesday afternoon on the Worthington campus.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- No tricks, just treats in the form of sunshine and blue skies greeted about 75 people at the groundbreaking for the Minnesota West Community and Technical College Health and Wellness Center Wednesday afternoon at the Worthington campus.

The existing recreational facility will be completely renovated and expanded to connect with the YMCA building. The project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2013.

The project is the result of community members and stakeholders coming together, Richard Shrubb, Minnesota West president, told the crowd of local officials, community members and college students.

"I would like this to be the mecca for higher learning and civic development," Shrubb said. "As a community, we can do that, and your presence here proves it."

"We've been working on this since 2004," said Jeff Harms, facility director for Minnesota West. "It's huge for us so we can host more events and do a lot of things for youth."

The total cost of the renovation is about $4.5 million, Harms said, which will be paid in part by general obligation bonds and the college.

Jes Hermeling, a sophomore at the Worthington campus, said the new facility will be a welcome addition for athletes and students alike.

"I'm a three-sport athlete here, so basically if I'm not in the classroom, I'm out in the gym," Hermeling said. "My days, nights and weekends are spent here."

She said future students should appreciate the new facility, adding that it will be one of the nicer ones in the area.

"I'm kind of jealous that I won't get to partake in it, but I can always come back," she said.

Marie Johnson, campus marketer for Minnesota West, said the new center will provide ample space for a wide array of uses.

"It provides opportunities for people of all ages to come out to campus and experience different programs -- whether it's athletic programs, health and wellness, expos and community events," Johnson said.

College athletic events will take place at the high school while the renovations are under way, Johnson explained, adding that several other venues will also welcome events while construction continues.

"Students are definitely ex-cited for the updates that are taking place in the facility," Johnson said. "There are quite a few amenities in there that have not been updated in a number of years."

Those include training rooms, locker rooms and a designated space for referees to go before games.

"Our facility is limited now," Shrubb said. "When we have visiting teams, somebody has to be in the opposite gender locker room -- you don't really want to switch around like that."

It will be a community facility, he said.

"We don't want any separation between the town and the college," Shrubb said. "We want people to come by and use the college for a lot."

It's important for the college to make a good impression on visitors, the president added.

"We shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but we do," Shrubb said. "So when people come and look at the campus we want really positive visual influences as soon as they get here, and this will help us achieve that."

"Facilities really make people feel important," said Minnesota West Provost Jeff Williamson. "We want them to be proud to choose to be here.

"It's a reflection of the community and the progressiveness," Williamson continued. "It demonstrates our college and the community partnering together with the city, the YMCA, private people and state government."

"As we build this campus, we want activities that people can participate in outside of class that are recreational and healthy," Shrubb said, adding he feels an overwhelming sense of relief to see the project come together.

Daily Globe Reporter Kayla Strayer may be reached at 376-7322.