Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Cheers echoed throughout the lower level of the Indiana University Kokomo Library as more than 250 students, faculty, and staff gathered to watch students push down the wall to the "rock room" to break ground for the construction of the Milt and Jean Cole Family Wellness and Fitness Center.

Milt and Jean Cole Family Wellness and Fitness Center GroundbreakingInterim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke and Students pose for a picture to commemorate the beginning of construction. See more pictures here."This is the start of something great," said Cameron Richardson, a Cougar basketball player. "The wellness center is going to be a great asset for the students. It gives students and athletes a place to get healthy together, while meeting people and building friendships. I'm so excited I got to be part of its beginning."

Students, including athletes representing the cross country, basketball, and volleyball teams, student government leaders, and some chosen by raffle, opened the wall separating two sections of unused space, which will open in the fall of 2013 as a state-of-the-art wellness and fitness facility.

Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke said it was important to her to have students involved in the ceremony.

"This is going to be your facility, where you can network, make connections, and get healthier," she said. "That is why I wanted students to be here today, and why I want you here when we cut the ribbon and open the new center. You are going to have a world-class fitness facility."

Sophomore Elizabeth Wallace was excited when Sciame-Giesecke called out her ticket number, which allowed her to step behind the yellow caution tape line, don a hard hat, and give a pre-cut section of wall a hard shove to knock it down.

"I'm going to be so happy to work out on campus," Wallace said. "It will make this campus even better than it already is, because we will be able to fit in our exercise between classes, and not have to drive to another fitness center."

Rachael Williams, representing the volleyball team, said she and her teammates would be thrilled to train and condition on campus next season.

"It's going to be great to all the sports, so we don't have to work out at other places," she said. "It makes us more a part of the campus when we can exercise here with the other students."

The Milt and Jean Cole Family Wellness and Fitness Center will be a 20,500 square-foot facility, in the ground floor of the library. Amenities include a jogging and walking track, cardio and strength training area, two multipurpose rooms, a health studies classroom, locker rooms, and a reception area.

Penny Lee, vice chancellor for public affairs and advancement, said campus officials have raised about $1.6 million of the $2.5 million for the center. Its name honors the Cole family of Logansport, who gave $1.25 million, the largest cash gift in campus history.

Lee also recognized Diana Tenbrook, who is leading the Inspire Power fund raising campaign for the center. She also represents Solidarity Community Federal Credit Union, which donated for naming rights to a locker room. Kevin Love represented Security Federal Credit Union, a donor for naming rights to the first aid station.

"These people are giving for this center because they believe in you, every one of you, and what you mean to our region," Lee said. "They believe in you and in this campus."

For more information about the Milt and Jean Cole Family Wellness and Fitness Center, the fundraising campaign and tax benefits of giving, go to http://www.iuk.edu/wellnessfitnesscenter, or contact Lee at 765-455-9485 or pennlee@iuk.edu.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.