Laney Center expected to be student hub

PLAINVIEW – Right now, students see workers moving dirt, pipes and cement and hear the low growl of bulldozers at work on the west end of the Wayland Baptist University campus.

But within a few months, the dirt will be replaced with a magnificent structure and the noise of construction will give way to the noise of intramural basketball and workout machines.

The Pete and Nelda Laney Student Activities Center is under construction on the Wayland campus, with completion set for Fall 2007. Both administrators and students are excited about the new facility and what it will mean to student life as a whole.

“It’s going to be a place where we want to drive as much student traffic as much as we can to let them enjoy it both academically and recreationally,” said Dr. Claude Lusk, vice president for enrollment management. “It will have academic impact on the exercise and sport science classes there, student life impact through intramurals and other activities, and athletic impact through the availability of additional space and opportunities for student recreation.”

Lusk and other administrators fully expect the Laney Center to be a hub of activity for students on campus and off, with new workout facilities and a new lounge area complete with a big-screen TV, couches and tables for studying and visiting. The area will feature Internet access and a snack bar as well as a portable staging area to accommodate coffee house and small concert events.

“I think the student lounge and snack bar area will be a focal point for us,” Lusk said, adding that the area originally wasn’t intended to be so well outfitted but was changed to make the facility more flexible in its usage. “I want to know that if a student wants to go over there and study and have a snack, it’s available to them.”

Past the 4,000-square foot lounge area, the Laney Center will feature a large gymnasium similar to Hutcherson Center, with a master court running lengthwise and two auxiliary courts running the opposite direction. According to Athletic Director Dr. Greg Feris, this should make the facility even more functional for a variety of sports and activity options.

“We envision a much larger intramural activity area and recreation space with this facility, much more than we have now,” Feris said. “We’re basically sharing one floor with five athletic programs and our classes. The rest of our students sometimes get what’s left over.”

Fitness and recreation will be the focal points of the facility, with a second floor fully equipped with cardiovascular machines such as treadmills and cross trainers, a weight training room, an aerobics room and an indoor jogging track in addition to several classrooms and offices. The facility will also offer a full locker room area.

While some of the existing equipment in the currently WBU workout facility will find a new home at the Laney Center, much of the equipment and furnishings will be new. Among those is a set of stacked, select-weight equipment (as opposed to free weights that come off a bar).

Feris expects the facility to be abuzz often with exercise and recreation, and the added intramural programs should enhance student life as well. Lusk agrees, but says that rumors of the demise of Pete’s Place – the current student lounge located in the basement of McClung Center – are premature.

“We don’t intend to close Pete’s Place but just have another place for students to hang out,” Lusk said. “(The Laney Center and Pete’s) will run simultaneously as long as we can, and we’ll gauge the response for keeping Pete’s there.”

Construction will continue through the winter as long as the weather cooperates and concrete can continue to be poured soon. The steel framework will go up in January, and the facility is expected to be in use by Fall 2007. McDougal Construction is doing the building work.