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SOMMER CENTER DEDICATED AT BLUFFTON
A successful fundraising campaign and construction process came to fruition at Bluffton University Oct. 13 with the dedication of the new Sommer Center for Health and Fitness Education.
"This dedication represents a significant moment in Blufftons history and results from more than a decade of careful planning and the generosity of many alumni and friends," said President James M. Harder during a Homecoming Saturday ceremony. The 60,000-square-foot facility is named for the central Illinois familywith extensive Bluffton tiesthat gave the lead gift for its construction just north of Marbeck Center.
Jim Sommer, a 1968 Bluffton graduate and a current trustee, spoke on behalf of his extended family, which owned a seed business in Pekin, Ill., for 95 years, until 2004.
"We have a long history of being influenced by Bluffton," he said. Among other connections, he pointed out that his parents, Ted and Jo, met as Bluffton students, and that three of his four children are alumni. So are his wife, Susan, also a 1968 graduate and the daughter of longtime Bluffton business manager Carl Lehman, and his brother, Steve, a 1973 alumnus and a member of the 1972 football team that will be inducted into the universitys Athletics Hall of Fame in January.
"I think we as a family can say we appreciated the Bluffton experience," said Sommer, also a member of the hall of fame for his accomplishments in basketball and football.
"The campus addressed the need in an area that was important to us," Sommer added about athletics. "If there was an area we wanted to get behind, it was probably this."
A campus master plan adopted by the Bluffton Board of Trustees in November 2000 determined both the site and the high priority for the building, which will offer enhanced facilities for all students. It will address important needs, Harder said, by:
Providing needed space for the growing academic department of health, fitness and sport science. Adding the center has allowed the addition of majors in exercise science, sport and recreation leadership, and strength and conditioning, noted Tami Forbes, department chair.
The department graduates many teacher-coaches and prepares students for growing opportunities in the fields of recreation and rehabilitative care.
Giving Blufftons intercollegiate volleyball and basketball teams a spacious, 1,500-seat home venue, replacing 60-year-old Founders Hall. The new Copeland Court is named for Larry and Shirley Copeland of Findlay, Ohio; Larry Copeland, a 1965 alumnus, co-chaired "Extending Our Reach," the recent comprehensive campaign that raised more than $32.7 million in gifts and estate commitments, including the full $14.7 million needed to fund the Sommer Centers design and construction.
The additional court spacealso including two practice courtswill aid the campus intramural program as well. "In the past, we had to limit the number of teams for indoor volleyball and basketball and had to play way past midnight to accommodate the high demand for court space," Forbes explained.
Benefiting all students with new fitness and weight training facilities and an indoor walking/jogging track.
Classes such as personal training and exercise and competitive strength training and exercise can be offered in the 5,000-square-foot fitness and weight training area, Forbes said. And with an indoor track available, programs such as "walk to wellness" and "commit to be fit" are envisioned, "to increase the overall fitness and wellness of our camps community," she added.
Kyle Schmidt, president of Blufftons Student Senate, discussed the impact on students. "Im sure that students who utilize our current campus workout space in Burcky Addition and in other building basements will appreciate the new space and great views in the Sommer Center," said the senior from Berne, Ind. They will also be grateful for the indoor track "during rainy springs and cold winters," he continued, saying "a warm and dry building beats having to deal with numb fingers any day."
The buildings facilities will also include:
A sports medicine center, with an exam room and offices for physicians and trainers; space for physical rehabilitation, including hydrotherapy; and dedicated areas for treatment and taping.
The multipurpose Reichenbach Room, which will be used for classes, meetings and special events. It is named for Tom and Helen Reichenbach of Bethesda, Md.; Tom Reichenbach is a 1958 alumnus and also co-chair of the "Extending Our Reach" campaign.
Locker and team rooms for volleyball and basketball, administrative offices for athletics and new Athletics Hall of Fame displays.
In addition to meeting needs, the Sommer Center "fits the university very well" in general, Harder said. For example, he cited "many environmentally-friendly qualities and anticipated LEED certification that make this a true 21st-century building."
The center is expected to be the first campus building certified under the U.S. Green Building Councils LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system. Key ingredients include commitments to an environmentally sustainable site, energy efficiencysuch as use of natural light in at least 90 percent of the centers regularly occupied spacesand to recycling, including 75 percent or more of construction waste. The center also includes systems, inside and outside, to reduce water usage and runoff and to manage impact on the adjacent natural areas along Riley Creek.
Representing Blufftons coaching staff at the ceremony was Guy Neal, mens basketball coach and, in his 24th year, the longest-serving active coach on campus. "In my time at Bluffton, this is the seventh new building I have watched go up," Neal said. "Every one of these new buildings has brought something new and special to our campusthey have each created new excitement and energy, and the Sommer Center has done the same."
Coming 15 months and one day after ground was broken for construction in July 2011, the dedication "takes its place alongside other moments celebrating transformative achievements in the 112-year history of Bluffton University," Harder said.
"There will be multiple generations of athletic hopes and dreams that will be lived out in this buildingplenty of sweat equity will be built up over time in varsity athletic competitions, intramural and class activities and in the fitness and weight training room," the president added. "Yet, as is true all across campus, I am confident that the most enduring outcomes of Sommer Center will ultimately remain the relationships and the community values that are formed here as part of the Bluffton educational process."
The architects for the project are Boston-based Sasaki Associates, who also designed Blufftons academic center, Centennial Hall, which opened in 2000. The general contractor is Thomas & Marker Construction, a Bellefontaine,Ohio, company whose many building projects at Bluffton have included Centennial Hall and, most recently, summer 2010 improvements to College Hall, Musselman Library and the Burcky Gym locker complex.
Bluffton public relations, 10/15/12