Byline: Christy Gutowski Daily Herald Staff Writer
The way Stephen Mead envisions it, Wheaton College isn't just building a sports complex where students can pump iron or shoot hoops.
Rather, the Christian liberal arts college is trying to build a sense of community among students and staff by giving them central places on campus to study, exercise, worship or just hang out.
The nationally known university will break ground Friday on a nearly $13 million two-story facility near the northeast corner of Chase and University streets.
Planners designed the building to include lots of open space, glassed-in walkways and a sky-lighted entrance, inviting participants to gather and check out all that's going on inside.
"It isn't just a series of gyms," said Mead, the college's business manager.
"We really want the activities in the space to be the picture that you see, not the brick and mortar. It'll have a real sense of openness with plenty of space and elbow room for kids to participate."
This summer, the college also will meet with architects to expand the student dining hall, Anderson Commons, into an enlarged student center.
The center will take the place of the existing Memorial Student Center. It will be complete with amenities such as a post office, snack shop, meeting rooms and open areas to watch television or study.
The college began working on creating a sports and recreation complex around 1995 after students identified added recreational opportunities as a need.
"Students have been involved from the very beginning, when the initiatives were first discussed," said Sabrina Cowles, a Seattle senior who serves as student government president.
In just four years, the college raised $10.5aemillion toward the …