It was hot and muggy at noon last Tuesday, and the several hundred University of St. Thomas students, staff and faculty gathered in front of the east entrance to the new Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex were hoping the ribbon-cutting ceremony wouldn’t take too long.

And it didn’t.  Athletics Director Steve Fritz knew the crowd had mostly come to get their first glimpse inside the complex that has been taking shape in the heart of the university’s St. Paul campus over the past 15 months.

“As the project developed we waited with curiosity, we waited with enthusiasm and certainly with patience,” Fritz told the onlookers. “It is time to ask Father Dease to cut the ribbon.”

It took a few tries for the university’s president to get the giant scissors to cooperate. Once the deed was done, Fritz pronounced over the sound of cheers and clapping that, “The doors are open and you are welcome to tour your new Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex.”

The complex was filled with a steady stream of visitors throughout the afternoon, and it officially opened for business at 6 a.m. the following morning.  

Visitors to the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex noticed the ample amount of natural lighting. If you look up while in this main east-west corridor, you can see clouds overhead.

Visitors to the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex noticed the ample amount of natural lighting. If you look up while in this main east-west corridor, you can see clouds overhead.

The only part of the complex unavailable for use last week was the aquatic center.  Watch for an announcement on when the pool can be used; it is expected to open this week.

The complex now has its own Web site. The phone number for the control desk on the first floor is (651) 962-5920.

If someone was writing down the comments made by those touring the building last week, their sentences would be followed by exclamation points. Visitors were able to see:

  • The field house, which has twice the cubic feet of the prior one.
  • The aquatic center and its “wicked fast” pool, as swimming coach Tom Hodgson refers to it. 
  • The new Schoenecker Arena, with a 25 percent increase in spectator capacity and a third-floor mezzanine. 
  • The cardio area, with 80-plus pieces of various equipment, including 24 treadmills. 
  • The weight room, with 60-plus pieces of equipment, including both machine and free weights. 
  • Two aerobic rooms where aerobics, yoga, spinning and boot-camp classes will be offered. 
  • Locker room facilities. “Impressive” is the word people used often.
  • Colorful video boards, scoreboards and display boards throughout the building.
  • The new location of the Health and Human Performance Department with its expanded and improved exercise physiology and biomechanics laboratories.

Construction of the $52 million, 180,000-square foot complex began in May 2009. At one point it was scheduled to open in October. Moving up the demolition of the former athletics center, O’Shaughnessy Hall, and some good weather allowed contractors finish their work in time for the start of fall semester.

The athletic complex is named for Lee and Penny Anderson who made a $60 million gift that helped fund three major projects: a 725-car parking facility that opened on south campus early in 2009, the athletic and recreation complex, and the student center which is now under construction at the corner of Summit and Cretin avenues.  The student center is scheduled to open in January of 2012.

The Andersons’ gift – the largest single contribution by an individual or couple to a college or university in Minnesota – launched St. Thomas’ $500 million capital campaign, “Opening Doors,” in fall 2007.

Undergraduate students have free access to the fitness areas with their St. Thomas ID card. Memberships are available to graduate and professional students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.  Faculty and staff will be able to eliminate the membership fees if they use the complex a certain number of times each month. Alumni and community membership programs will begin Oct. 1.

For more information about the complex and membership options, click here.

For more information about the arena and field house, click here.

For more information about the aquatic center, click here.

For more information about the weight and exercise rooms, click here.

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