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ST. PAUL, MINN. — The University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees has approved construction of a $52 million athletic and recreation complex on the university’s main campus in St. Paul. Upon completion of the athletic facility, the university has plans to construct a $66 million student center on the same campus.

“The construction jobs associated with a project of this scope come as good news to the local economy,” explains Jim Winterer, the new service director for the University of St. Thomas. “Beyond that, this is a project that is important to the long-term success of the university.”

Construction of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex will start in late May, with completion slated for fall 2010. The existing Shoenecker Arena, Coughlan Field House and Foley Theater will be demolished to make room for the 180,000-square-foot facility, which will be located east of St. Thomas’ football stadium.

The three-level structure will include a 2,000-seat basketball and volleyball arena; an aquatic center containing an eight-lane, 25-meter swimming pool and diving area; and a new field house with a 200-meter track, locker rooms, meeting rooms, training rooms and other support facilities. Additionally, the west wing of the building will house a fitness center, a weight room, and aerobic rooms on the first floor, with offices, classrooms and labs on the second and third floors. Minneapolis-based Opus Northwest and Opus Architects and Engineers are serving as the contractor and the architect for the project, with design assistance from St. Louis-based Hastings-Chivetta.

If approved by the Board of Trustees next year, the proposed 240,000-square-foot Anderson Student Center would be constructed on the site of the Cretin-Summit parking lot. The recent completion of the 725-car Anderson Parking Facility will enable the university to eventually close the existing 400-car Cretin-Summit parking lot.

The student center, which was designed to achieve LEED Certification, will house retail and residential dining facilities, a ballroom, offices for student organizations, as well as many gathering areas, meeting rooms and lounges. Construction of the student center would begin in fall 2010, with completion by February 2012.

Plans for the school came to fruition after Lee and Penny Anderson donated $60 million for the construction of the athletic and recreation complex, the proposed student center, and the completed $15 million parking facility. The Anderson’s gift, which is the largest single contribution by an individual or a couple to a college or university in Minnesota, launched St. Thomas’ $500 million capital campaign, Opening Doors.

According to the university, Opening Doors has raised approximately $351 million. Although most of the campaign funds are devoted to endowments for scholarships, faculty positions and academic programs, some contributions — like the Anderson’s — were earmarked for new construction.

“These are challenging times for any institution that raises funds, but as our president explained, we have raised enough money to move forward with the project,” Winterer says. “The facilities will allow us to remain competitive with other colleges and university’s in the region, and will provide an important resource for generations of University of St. Thomas students, staff and faculty.”

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