By Curt Yeomans
Andrea Doner likes having a large workout area at Clayton State University where she can get in shape for her favorite sport -- wrestling.
The McDonough native, and freshman business major at Clayton State, does not compete on a varsity or intramural team at the university, because one does not exist, but she still competes in the sport on her own, in her off time.
On Thursday morning, Doner could be found on a treadmill in CSU's new Student Activity Center, talking to a friend as they worked up a sweat and looked out on the university's tennis courts.
Elsewhere in the new building, university officials were celebrating the official opening of the center, which will give students a place to work out and socialize while they are on campus.
"I like it," Doner said. "It saves money on a gym membership, and it keeps me in shape for wrestling."
While the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Student Activity Center was held on Thursday, students, faculty and staff members were allowed to begin using the facility on Sept. 12.
The 62,000-square foot building cost $17 million to build and furnish. It includes two high school, regulation-sized basketball courts; a two-story workout area; two exercise rooms; a 5,000-squre foot ballroom; a café; a game room and office space for several student organizations, including the Student Government Association; the student newspaper, and Greek life offices.
Since the building opened last week, 518 students have already come by to work out at the facility, said Veronika Jasenovcova, a junior from Slovakia, who works at the check-in desk for the fitness area. "It's been pretty steady," she said.
Chloe Almond, a junior from Forest Park, who was working at the desk with Jasenovcova, added: "It started off kind of slow, but each day, it builds as word gets out that we're open."
Brian Haynes, vice president of student affairs, said the vision for the Student Activity Center existed for several years before it was built, but the university was not able to make it a reality until it had the funding in place to pay for construction.
The building is owned by Clayton State University Foundation Real Estate I, LLC, and is being leased to the university, which will pay for it through student activity fees.
"There was a major need for this facility at the university," said Haynes. "While we're not the last university in the state to build a student union, clearly a university this size needs a place to gather, socialize and recreate."