UC Merced opens new athletics center

FRESNO, Calif.

A huge crowd of students gathered for the grand opening of UC Merced's new activities and athletics center.

Chancellor Dorothy Leland made it official with the cutting of a ribbon.

Then the students rushed inside to check out the 21 thousand square foot facility. Senior basketball player Ahmed Elhendy was excited to try some of the $200 thousand worth of equipment in the new weight room.

"That's the number one thing with athletics is strength training, and this pretty much provides everything we need," senior Ahmed Elhendy said.

But this building is not just for varsity athletes.

"80% of our students participate in our programs on the recreation side, so it shows this is a critical need for them, they really want to be active and participate, so this building is the next step in continuing to provide those opportunities," Recreation & Athletics Director David Dunham said.

The center has rooms that can be used for a variety of activities from spinning classes to karate and also four large meeting rooms. Funding for the facility came from a variety of sources, including an $8.5 million dollar loan that will be paid back through student fees.

"It's really a sorely-needed facility given that our student population is now 56 hundred," UC Merced campus architect Tom Lollini said.

The university's sports program is also growing steadily, with women's soccer and basketball joining the list of varsity programs this year. Plus UC Merced is hosting its first NAIA conference volleyball tournament.

"It's a lot of little pieces, but when you add them up it shows the involvement of our students and the maturing process of our campus," Dunham said.

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