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Fit for Every Good Work

A state-of-the-art fitness and sports center arising in place of Schuldes is designed for broad appeal, tending to body, mind and spirit as it meets the needs of the entire campus community.

When the college broke ground for its new fitness and sports center earlier this spring, it broke ground as well to a new understanding of the interplay between wellness, training and athletic endeavor. 

The Mulva Family Fitness & Sports Center now being constructed around the core of the former Schuldes Sports Center embodies a comprehensive vision that is capturing the attention of institutions across the country – especially of those whose missions, like St. Norbert College’s, direct them toward the development of the whole person; toward an intentional nurturing of body, mind and spirit.

As the philosophy of the new building evolved so, too, did the design concept. More space was allocated to health and wellness services. What was to have been a functional weight-room morphed into a two-story fitness center – a facility to not only serve the needs of serious athletics training but to also appeal to the entire student body – body in both senses of the word! – with an ambience more typical of a membership gym. “That’s the thing students have been clamoring for,” says Tim Bald (Athletics). “A place to work out, to release stress, to get in shape.”

The $26 million building is made possible by a lead donation of $13 million from naming donors Jim and Miriam (Brozyna ’69) Mulva. This latest gift from a couple whose generosity is already legion on campus stands as the single largest gift the college has ever received. 

In the words of President Tom Kunkel, the renovation and expansion of Schuldes, due for completion next spring, “will take our tired workhorse of a sports center, built in 1979 and site of so many storied moments in Green Knight history, and transform it into a state-of-the-art complex devoted to fitness, wellness and athletics.” The building will grow from its current 80,000 square feet to almost 130,000. 

Among other amenities, the building will feature a competition-sized swimming pool as well as the fitness center; both amenities overlooking the river through a wall of glass. 

With an NCAA-regulation swimming pool on campus comes the opportunity to reintroduce swimming and diving to the Green Knights varsity program, says Bald.

“A swimming pool adds a whole new dimension,” adds Patrick Wrenn (Facilities). “It makes for a very unique atmosphere, to have a natatorium. It’s going to be pretty exciting.”

Staying fit in mind, body and spirit
Barb Bloomer (Health & Wellness) saw the potential of the new center even while the Schuldes transformation was nothing but a distant hope. “One of the factors that really got my wheels turning early on,” Bloomer says, “was the fact that we’ve got now an MBA program that has a health-care focus; we have the Medical College of Wisconsin on campus that came in more or less simultaneously. It just felt that the time was right to make this paradigm shift.” 

Bloomer was looking for ways to integrate the work of the college’s health and counseling centers with its training and athletics programs, to make for a more effective and inclusive whole. She saw the possibility, for instance, of infusing a holistic health awareness into graduate students on the health-care track – “people who are going to be running health programs.” 

With a practical setting like the new center right at hand, she could see how the easy symbiosis between health and athletics departments might inform these grad students’ research. “I thought, wow! We have an opportunity here. This could really be changing the whole concept of the way college health is viewed.”

With sports health issues like concussions in the national conversation, and a growing awareness of the importance of sports psychology to athletics prowess, it’s not hard to see the benefits of placing health and counseling centers adjacent to coaches’ offices. At the same time, health providers are excited at the prospect of introducing more students to easy-access facilities that are just around the corner – places where the barriers between the athletically inclined and the “gym-timidated” can melt away.

Bruce Robertson (Counseling) asks, “Truly what is a residential college? Really what we’re talking about is addressing the development of the whole student; so, physically, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally … .

“We would, as a campus, be addressing the wellness of every student who comes here. This development truly fits the mission of the college.”

Changing up your routine
Tim Bald’s official title is director of athletics. His role for the next year could more accurately be described as master of logistics as the college’s athletics department and sports teams find themselves scattered throughout the campus and Green Bay area.

The $26 million renovation and expansion of the Mulva Family Fitness & Sports Center (on the site of the former Schuldes Sports Center) has necessitated a massive relocation effort for day-to-day operations, as well as for competition throughout the 2016-17 academic year. “It’s like baking a cake,” Bald says. “You mix all the ingredients, and pretty soon we’ll get a nice product.”

Finding a temporary home for the athletics department staff was one of the easier challenges Bald faced in putting together the pieces of the puzzle. Most of his staff are using the Pennings Activity Center on the opposite end of campus, while the hockey coaches have set up shop in the Cornerstone Community Center. 

Weight-room equipment is in the Pennings Activity Center gymnasium. “We’re fortunate to have that building available right here on campus,” Bald says. “It’s a clunky, old building, but it comes in handy in situations like this.” Old files, desks and other items that won’t be needed for a year were packed and loaded into semitrailers, which were then hauled to Donald J. Schneider Stadium and parked there for the duration of the project. 

Finding practice and competition venues for the various teams was a more daunting task. Bald was able to secure a combination of area high-school, university and privately owned facilities to make things work. The college will pay rent in some cases, while others will be free under barter or other arrangements.

The men’s and women’s basketball teams, which need college-length courts that are larger than high school courts, will play doubleheaders at the Kress Events Center on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus. Volleyball matches will take place at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, and most of the indoor track practice will take place at West De Pere High School.

Basketball practices will move to The Driveway, a newly opened training center in suburban Hobart owned by former UWGB star Ryan Borowicz, who just happens to be a former teammate of Green Knights men’s coach Gary Grzesk. “Ryan’s business opening dovetails with what we need,” Bald says. “It was unbelievable. It fell out of the sky and right into our lap.”



Second Time Around the Block
Connie Tilley recalls that moving from the antiquated Van Dyke Gym (now part of the Ray Van Den Heuvel Family Campus Center) to the new Schuldes Sports Center late in 1979 “was like going from a boathouse to a castle.”

The legendary women’s basketball coach, whose tenure encompasses the storied lifespan of Schuldes, is looking forward to breaking in the next generation of athletics facilities when the reimagined building reopens in time for the 2017-18 academic year as the Mulva Family Fitness & Sports Center.

“I remember the first games we played in Schuldes because Abbot Pennings High School was in there along with our men’s team, so we played triple-headers,” Tilley says. “Schuldes was one of the premier facilities in the area when it opened. I’m very glad to be in three buildings during my time here.”

On her way to compiling a 652-286 record, Tilley coached the Green Knights to home NCAA Tournament appearances on five occasions, including the 1985 team that lost in the national semifinals when the Final Four was contested at Schuldes. The college named the basketball court in Tilley’s honor in 2009. The court lives on as part of the renovated core of the new facility.

Head athletics trainer Russ Schmelzer ’82 had just transferred to St. Norbert as the transition to Schuldes occurred. He recalls a memorable game played in Van Dyke against UW-Stevens Point and its now-legendary coach, Dick Bennett. Schmelzer wasn’t yet eligible to play because of NCAA transfer rules, but he was on hand as a student trainer.

“Schuldes was supposed to have been ready by that time, but it wasn’t done yet,” Schmelzer says. “They had already removed the bleachers from Van Dyke, so the football team brought in all of their own couches and lounge chairs.”

Schmelzer played a more prominent role in one of the biggest upsets in Schuldes history two months later, when he poured in 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a 72-67 victory over Northern Michigan University, which was the sixth-ranked team in Division II.

“You compare what happened in that Stevens Point game to moving into Schuldes, and Schuldes was a palace,” Schmelzer says. “Our training room went from being basically a hallway between the shower and the locker room in Van Dyke to having a stand-alone training room. It was like heaven for me.”

The Schuldes Sports Center, built at a cost of $3.5 million, was dedicated in 1979. It was named for Malcolm Schuldes, who contributed nearly $600,000 to the project, and for his wife, Rose. The Schuldes name and legacy will be appropriately commemorated in the new center.


June 27, 2016