Lander University officials broke ground Tuesday (Nov. 30) to build an outdoor, multipurpose space for students’ recreational and academic use.
The new facility, which replaces the Sproles Recreation Center built in 1952, is designed to enhance the student experience at the university and will include a covered pavilion with large televisions, an outdoor movie screen and an expansive area for outdoor classes and academic activities, including campus events that call for social distancing. An outdoor pool at the heart of the structure, surrounded by palm trees, will feature seating near the water, in the shade and on the nearby grassy terrace.
Dr. Richard Cosentino, Lander University president, told a crowd of students, community leaders and university employees, “What’s coming here, you can’t even believe it.”
The facility, being constructed during a time of record enrollment and unprecedented growth at Lander, will have a resort-like design and is scheduled to open in fall 2022, during Lander’s 150th anniversary celebration. “This beautiful, new space is sure to be a highlight of the student experience at Lander,” Cosentino said.
Dr. Boyd Yarbrough, Lander’s vice president for Student Affairs, said, “What makes me most excited is that Lander continues to puts its students first.”
Students have been an integral part of the planning process and provided input throughout the project’s design. “We are thrilled that our contractor partners listened and adapted the plans to accommodate feedback from students,” Yarbrough said. “Specifically, students asked for bench seating in the pool, raised seating around the pool, TVs throughout the space, and ultra-cool lighting in and around the pool.”
Yarbrough said the project continues to transform the heart of the campus.
“It is a natural extension of the gathering options in our plaza area to allow students to hang out between classes or after a full day of studying,” he said. “It will be a magnificent draw for prospective students to see our current students relaxing in such a beautiful environment.
Nearly 70 years old, the Sproles Recreation Center no longer could safely accommodate Lander students’ expanding needs for recreational space, including a location that would provide adequate social distancing, Cosentino said.
At the time that Sproles was built, Lander had about 140 students. Today, the university has more than 3,800 students.
To address the campus growth, the university sought and received approval from the Lander Board of Trustees and the State of South Carolina to demolish Sproles to make way for the complex, he said.
The president told students, “It will be amazing. This is as high-end as it gets, and we want you to use it and enjoy it.”
Yarbrough said the project is an exciting one for students. “It will provide a dynamic space for students to gather, relax and have fun with their friends.”