BOZEMAN – Montana State University broke ground Tuesday for its new student wellness facility, which will provide one location for all student fitness, recreation, and physical and mental health services on the southern side of campus.

Norris Blossom, president of the Associated Students of Montana State University - MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

Calling it a facility that will have a transformational impact on student life at MSU, student body President Norris Blossom said holistic health was so important to MSU students that they voted to finance the project, even at a time that they were attending classes remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This will be more than a fitness center,” Blossom told the audience assembled on the lawn outside the Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center for the groundbreaking. “This facility will combine all aspects of wellness in one location accessible to all.”

In April 2020, MSU students voted by a margin of two-to-one, or 66% for and 34% against, to pass a fee to construct the Student Wellness Center. Construction is expected to take approximately two years. The architect for the project is MMW Architects in Missoula in partnership with RDG Planning and Design. The general contractor is Jackson Contractor Group.

MSU President Waded Cruzado told the crowd that Mother Nature was a major impetus for the project. In March 2019 a historic snow load caused the collapse of the roofs of two MSU gymnasiums. Afterward, surveys on what students wanted to see in replacement facilities clearly revealed the importance of the facility, which Cruzado called a “whole new vision in student health and wellness.” She said the facility will co-locate and enlarge many student health services scattered across campus and will also house labs for research in the College of Education, Health and Human Development.

“When we began this project several years ago — when the student body voted to use funds from student fees to provide easy access to cutting-edge fitness and wellness for current and future generations of Bobcats — we certainly had no idea that we would all experience one of the greatest historic challenges to our health and wellness in our whole world’s history,” Cruzado said. “If there is anything that the last two years have demonstrated, it is the vital importance of physical and mental health to our students, to community and to our world. We all have first-hand experience of the critical link between mental and physical health to personal and academic success.”

Blossom said that among the “monumental resources” of the new building will be a larger climbing wall, an updated swimming pool, indoor sports courts and spaces for fitness and group exercise.

Architech's drawing of the Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center, to be built on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman. Groundbreaking was held Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. (MSU Graphic)

Three MSU students spoke at the groundbreaking, each detailing the importance of the facility to an important group of students.

Grace French, a sophomore in mechanical engineering from Pleasanton, California, and president of the Women’s Lacrosse club, said that the facility will expand courts and fields used by the 27 club sports at MSU and 11 intramural leagues. French said that physical fitness is important to MSU’s active student body, and the facility will provide indoor training facilities for those sports who must practice or compete during the chilly spring semester.

Justin Whitten, a doctoral student in exercise science from Chaska, Minnesota, said the Student Wellness Center will provide collaborative labs in one location for an array of graduate research students.

Jack Larson, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering from Rapid City, South Dakota, said consolidating in one location MSU’s mental health and psychological services, its fitness and wellness facilities, and medical and dental health into a “one-stop shop” will benefit all MSU students. Larson said the pandemic was a catalyst that helped emphasize mental health’s importance to students. He said that he and other students understood that even if they might not still be on campus when the building is finished, they still realized the importance of the facility and voted for it.

“We have to look out for each other,” Larson said. “That is the Bobcat way.”

 To learn more about the MSU student wellness and fitness center, go to https://www.montana.edu/wellness-center/.

 -By Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service-