In the middle of an empty field sits the Hoop House. Christened in 2013 as the Xavier University Rec Center Butterfly Urban Farm, the Quonset hut-style structure sheathed in plastic is surrounded by a pleasant white, wooden fence and rows of tillable garden just waiting for the summer growing season.
The fact that the words “Rec Center” are part of the name was an acknowledgement that a replacement for the dated O’Connor Sports Center on the other side of campus was in the works for that patch of land.
Now, its time has come. By 2020, the Hoop House butterflies will have fluttered over to the Nexus Garden, and on that grassy field between University Station and the Commons Apartments will rise the Health United Building—already known as The HUB.
The building will be large, encompassing approximately 150,000 square feet—the size of an average Costco.
“It’s big,” says Paul Gore, Dean of the College of Professional Sciences. But he notes its construction wouldn’t have been possible without an equally big partner in TriHealth, the fourth largest employer in Cincinnati that was formed in 1995 when Bethesda and Good Samaritan hospitals joined together.
“It’s the result of the joint dedication, commitment and contribution of Xavier University and TriHealth,” he says.
President Michael Graham, S.J., calls it a landmark agreement for both Xavier and TriHealth that is another example of the Jesuit term, magis, taken to the next level.
“It will enable us to dramatically improve health and wellness facilities, services and overall health for our students and employees,” he says.
Mark C. Clement, TriHealth President and CEO, concurs. “This affiliation is uniquely focused, like no other in the country, on caring for the whole person—mind, body and spirit,” he says.
The new building is the most visible manifestation of the 10-year affiliation between Xavier and TriHealth that was announced in January. But it will be so much more.
As the focus of Xavier’s health and wellness initiatives, the building will be the home of a new recreation center as well as a comprehensive physical and mental health-care center for students, offering health and wellness programming.
Plus it will house up to five health-related academic programs in the College of Professional Sciences that are now housed in distant locations far from the heart of campus, including the School of Nursing and the departments of Occupational Therapy, Health Services Administration, Radiologic Technology and Sport Studies.
As with many long-term plans, multiple delays in building a new recreation center through the years ultimately created a unique opportunity for an even grander vision that is now The HUB, Gore says.
“It wasn’t until last fall when the partnership revealed itself with some clarity that it gave us the opportunity to rethink the building,” he says.
With planning for a new rec center already done, the challenge is to integrate academic housing for faculty, staff, students, classrooms and labs. But even before the first shovel goes into the ground in January 2018, the immediate benefit to students will be a substantial upgrade in health-care services.
“It’s been a very neat progression to see this whole thing happen,” says Dr. Stephen Cleves, a Xavier alum and medical director at the McGrath Health and Wellness Center.
His decades-long association with TriHealth through Good Samaritan Hospital and Xavier gives him a unique perspective.
“The advantage is that students will now be offered a dramatically increased and robust level of services with a wide range of specialists becoming available at the current site of the McGrath Health Center because of the relationship to TriHealth,” he says.
As far as the fate of the current rec center, Leslie Dulle, director for Recreational Sports, looks forward to crossing Victory Parkway to their new home in the center of campus. She reflects on the many visions and revisions but has no doubt the final version will be a star attraction on campus tours.
“It’s been a long road,” she says. “But we’ll be on a level playing field with other universities” with multiple courts and extensive individual and group fitness options.
She also won’t mind the additional company if it’s bringing more students through the door. Right now, 65 percent of students use the O’Connor Sports Center, and they have a significantly higher retention rate. So, she reasons, increasing the percentage of students who use the rec center also contributes to the overall health of the University.
Having approximately 25 percent of the campus population, at any given time, in a building that doesn’t exist yet will have a profound impact on life at Xavier. Academically and professionally, Gore envisions a learning environment that brings out the best within those walls and beyond.
“We’re going to have all these disciplines in the same building,” Gore says. “One of our emerging areas of expertise and national recognition is our capacity to provide interprofessional collaboration.”
These are students who are going to work together in the same type of facilities when they graduate and get jobs. In a world challenged by rising health-care costs, the Xavier-TriHealth collaboration transforms the road to wellness into a superhighway.
“Putting a medical office in with a rec center plus wellness facility is where health care is going,” Cleves says.