KNOXVILLE — Johnson University dignitaries, faculty, staff and students gathered Tuesday to officially break ground for the new Athletic and Recreation Complex on the Tennessee campus.
Dean of the Chapel Bill Wolf opened the ceremony with prayer, highlighting the university leadership’s dedication to using the new structure in a way that advances Johnson’s mission.
“Someone ought to ask the question, what does building a building like the ARC, the Athletic and Recreation Complex, have to do with the mission of Johnson University,” Gary Weedman, JU’s president, said. “It is a lot of money, the likes of which we have not seen before now.”
In answer to the question, Weedman cited an in-depth Gallop study that he said suggests five things college graduates desire. These desires are purpose, social engagement, financial stability, community involvement and physical well-being.
“Three of those elements are related to this building project,” he said. “It is a place of social interaction. It is a place of affirming community with groups of students and other connections with students. And, it is a place of physical well-being.
“So, it is not at all unrelated to our mission,” Weedman said.
JU President-Elect Tommy Smith echoed Weedman’s sentiments concerning the missional emphasis of the new facility.
“What draws us here today is not a building, or even students or supporters,” Smith said. “What draws us here today is our mission. And I hope we use this occasion to rededicate ourselves to God’s call to extend His kingdom among all nations.”
The new building is not the only change being made to the JUTN sports complex.
In an earlier interview, Kevin O’Brien, who is overseeing construction on behalf of the university, said that in addition to the new recreation building, the sports complex will also include a new regulation size baseball field and softball field. The soccer field will be moved and the area around the field will be expanded. Six new tennis courts, a new outdoor basketball court and a sand volleyball area will also be constructed.
Construction is expected to be completed in one year.
“It’s going to be a glorious thing to see this take shape in the coming months, and by the fall of 2018 to enjoy the results of it,” Weedman said.
University officials are in the process of raising funds for the ARC.
The building projects will not impact tuition.
“We raise the money to pay for the building and then the students utilize it,” O’Brien said earlier, “Students don’t pay for it.”
O’Brien said students will pay toward the general operation of the buildings, through their tuition cost and room and board, but the building expenses will not affect tuition cost.
Be looking for video coverage of the groundbreaking speeches later on the Royal Scribe.
Photos by Abigail Pruett