Transitioning through the first few weeks of college life at the University of South Dakota, the allure of Charlie’s bacon cheeseburgers and brick-sized scotcheroos easily become a go-to for students as they pack on the pounds.
To get ahead of the curve, or rather muffin top, students have access to the USD Wellness Center, a 64,000-square-foot facility located on the north side of the Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts.
With 76 fitness classes, personal training programs and a rock climbing wall three feet taller than South Dakota State University’s, the Wellness Center celebrated its one-year anniversary in February. More than six months later, membership is still high at about 6,100 visits a week from members.
The center is constantly transforming to meet student and community needs, Steve Mayer, director of the Wellness Center, said. In the first year alone, the facility added more treadmills, power lifting stations and row machines at the request of members, while fitness classes were added or dropped based on attendance.
Variety fitness is a major attraction for students, said senior Kayla Chesnut, who works part-time at the Wellness Center. Taking a look at the fitness class schedule, members can shimmy to dance favorite Zumba or try-out the facility’s newest class, hot yoga.
“I don’t want to say people should work out because of the freshman 15, but I think exercise gave me a good balance,” Chesnut said. “When I work out, it just gives me time to get away from the homework and stress.”
Aside from providing classes and equipment, the Wellness Center also hosts intramurals, club sports and long-term health activities.
A popular event from the spring semester, the center is kicking off their 2nd Annual Biggest Loser Challenge, which is designed for participants to not just lose weight, but to make lifestyle changes, Mayer said.
Wellness Center activities are advertised in dorm halls, on the university’s website and in first-year newsletters, Samantha Lowry, the center’s assistant director of activities, said. Lowry joined the staff six months ago, and she said freshman, especially, need to be aware of the mental health benefits exercise promotes.
“You need to move around, get the blood flowing,” Lowry said. “Students need the time to transition between classes and homework and organizations and work, which is what the Wellness Center can provide.”
Before the building was completed, the Wellness Center was located in the DakotaDome. The atmosphere is completely different, energetic in the new building, said senior Lindsey Kenobbie, who worked part-time at the Dome and is now at the new facility.
“People had to bring in their own equipment, and the place was pretty cramped (in the DakotaDome),” Kenobbie said. “If you walk into the new facility, the staff is there to help you right away, and it’s a friendly and comfortable place to work-out and meet people.”
Mayer could neither confirm nor deny plans for future expansion, but he said the facility’s available space is maxed out, and the staff has tried to rearrange some machines to allow more space for other equipment. As the building offers a lounge area, multiple athletic courts, an upstairs track and health bar, Mayer said the facility will continue to stay geared toward USD students.
In order to enter the center, students or staff must scan their ID.
The center is open Monday-Thursday from 5 a.m. to midnight, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Hours of operation are subject to change to correspond to USD breaks and holidays.