WKU’s Preston Center set for a third phase of renovations

The Preston Health and Activities Center at Western Kentucky University was constructed back in 1992. Eighteen years later, a second phase of renovations was completed in 2010 to include much more modern features and amenities for students to utilize. Now, the university’s intramural sports department has announced new plans in place for a third phase of renovations to take place.

"Part of our role in intramural, recreational sports is to provide the necessary programs, facilities, and services to our students that are here on the campus," said WKU Director of Intramural Sports Steve Rey.

With an ever-growing student body, and greater demand for different and up-to-date facilities, the Preston Center has created a plan to add several new features, including the likes of a multi-activity course gym, a climbing wall, a demonstration kitchen, a "wet classroom" designed for teaching swimming-related courses, and a functional training studio.

Rey said the department used answers for four separate focus groups to determine the new amenities they would look to add.

"We find out from our students," he said. "We look at what our benchmarks in state institutions are doing. We want to make sure we have all those similar programs and services."

Once they finished collecting the responses from the focus groups, Rey said they hired a local firm to run and coordinate a cost analysis to determine how much funding would be needed to complete a project of this magnitude. After landing on $18.7 million as the cost for the project, the next step was deciding how to pay for it. With state funding, university expenditure and increasing student fees ruled out, they settled on the decision that this would need to be funded through alumni and donations. The department is planning on working closely with WKU’s Office of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement to identify and reach out to those potential donors. 

"That’s the direction that we’re gonna go in," said Rey. "We are not going to ask our students for additional support. We’re not going to ask the university for university dollars for this program, or the state."

Rey expects the entire process to take anywhere between eight to 10 years to complete, based on projections for raising the necessary funds and actually completing the construction portion of the project. However, once the new features are built, he says they’ll be used more than just in a fitness aspect, but in an educational manner as well.

"Each of these spaces will also have an academic component to it," Rey added. "The climbing wall will work very closely will our department of kinesiology and recreational sports for academic classes. We’ll work with the military science department because of the climbing features, and some of the things they have to do to prepare our young men and women for service in the military."

One of the other prominent reasons for the renovations, according to Rey, is to contribute to the recruiting of prospective students, and the retention of current Hilltoppers.