College of Saint Mary (CSM) has approved the construction of its new state-of-the-art $18 million athletic facility, which will provide its students and the greater Omaha area with a place for women to excel and grow through athletics. Attached to the Lied Fitness Center, CSM’s Wellness & Athletic Center (WAC) will dramatically expand access to year-round training, recreation and performance spaces for students, athletes, and the surrounding community.

“We really want to claim the space for women’s athletics in the region,” said College of Saint Mary President Dr. Maryanne Stevens, RSM. “Evidence is overwhelming that athletic participation and physical activity play critical roles in the health, wellbeing, and success of women. This is a major investment in line with our commitment to call forth potential and foster leadership.”

Created to be a center for women’s athletics in the heart of Omaha, the venue will feature a competition quality track capable of hosting collegiate-level indoor track and field events. In addition, the facility will include three basketball/volleyball courts, indoor batting tunnels, a golf simulator, new fitness areas and cardio equipment, modern locker rooms, meeting space, and more. Totaling more than 82,000 square feet, the development will have a transformative impact on the campus. 

“We believe women who compete today will succeed tomorrow,” said Rick Jeffries, a member of College of Saint Mary's board of directors. “Through every type of athletics – from group yoga to nationally-ranked volleyball, our facilities will offer women the chance to become the resilient, healthy, and disciplined leaders they are destined to be.”

The new addition also includes a Human Performance Lab that will enable faculty and students to engage in hands-on research. The expanded facilities will create a permanent home for the in-person portions of CSM’s new blended learning Doctorate of Physical Therapy program the College plans to launch in June of this year.

“This wouldn’t be possible without the support of our generous donors,” adds President Stevens. “They recognize the importance of this new center for College of Saint Mary students, but even more so for the community at large.”

In recent years CSM has built intentional partnerships between the Flames Athletic Department and young women throughout Omaha. Creating strong relationships with Omaha Public Schools, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Girls Inc., FitGirl Inc., and other youth-focused organizations allows the College to inspire girls to pursue higher education through athletic involvement.

Peter Haze Haring, athletic director at CSM, says the new fitness center will act as a springboard to new relationships and programs that can benefit the Omaha sports world.

“We’ve seen tremendous success in partnering with the Omaha community,” said Haring. “This new facility will only augment those relationships and bring forth new opportunities to strengthen female athletics in the region.” 

In 2018, CSM worked with several other key leaders in the community to form the Ironhawk Juniors Triathlon, a now annual event that welcomes over 200 girls from across Omaha to participate in a modified triathlon race on CSM’s campus. “This is just one example of a program that will benefit from the new Wellness and Athletic Center – one that helps build self-esteem, encourages perseverance and empowers young girls through sport,” said Jamie Adams, assistant athletic director and one of the leaders in CSM’s Ironhawk partnership.

Located on the university’s northeast side of campus at the corner of Pine Street and Aksarben Drive, the center will mark a major addition to the landscape of west Aksarben Village.

“I’m excited – I think we all are,” said Makenna Freeman, sophomore biology student and member of the Flames Volleyball Team. “It’s a huge step for our athletic programs and just for the college in general. I think we’re all looking forward to training and performing in this new space!”

Construction will begin in March with a formal groundbreaking ceremony. The university partnered with DLR Group, The Weitz Company, and Project Advocates for construction management services. The fitness center is set to be completed in the fall of 2021.