A Vision of Wellness
Walter Payton Recreation & Wellness Center, Jackson State University
It took eight years to realize the vision of the Jackson State University leadership—to provide a state-of-the-art facility to promote an increased awareness of the importance of physical wellness as well as mental acuity. But with the completion of the Walter Payton Recreation & Wellness Center in January 2006, that vision became reality, and students, faculty and staff are reaping the benefits of a focus on total wellness.
"After realizing that an overwhelming amount of our students and faculty/staff were obese and suffering from health issues, President Dr. Ronald Mason felt it was imperative that the University receive a mind, body and spirit experience while on campus," said Chondra Johnson, director of recreation services for the Wellness Center. "The facility answers that challenge in the services and programs offered daily. Our ultimate goal is to change the body type of the University by 2016 as a component of the Millennium Agenda (JSU Strategic Plan) Initiatives."
The center sets high standards for exceptional recreation and wellness for the school's nearly 8,000 students, 1,500 staff and faculty and 1,000-plus registered alumni, as well as the entire Jackson area.
"It is proven that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind, spirit and an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence, resulting in an overall healthier lifestyle," Johnson said.
A campus-wide health and fitness initiative teams the Payton Center up with Dining Services, Student Life and media services to help the JSU community improve the health and efficiency of its workforce, while developing an important commitment to wellness among its students that they can maintain for a lifetime.
"As the designated core component of the health initiative championed by the president, the Payton Center provides the environment and resources to change the physical shape and improve the health status of the campus community through maximized and efficient usage of this state-of-the-art facility," Johnson said.
The facility wows patrons and visitors with its impressive exterior, as well as its beautiful and stately entry.
"Patrons receive a good dose of unique as they walk through the front doors into the Rotunda, from the 40-foot glass dome ceiling all the way down to the star-patterned marble floor," Johnson said. "The custom-designed walk of fame, normally called the main corridor in most rec centers, is unique because of the high arching ceramic tile columns."
The original concept includes areas for recreation, fitness and conferences. This includes three aerobics studios, a 10,000-square-foot strength and conditioning center, three racquetball courts, a squash court, a three-court gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, as well as a lounge and juice bar, Pro Shop, locker rooms and supporting spaces.
"Our common spaces are larger than life," Johnson said. "This includes three aerobics studios and a welcome center with over 6,000 square feet."
State-of-the-art and up-to-the-minute technology also abounds in the facility. High-definition flat-panel televisions are installed in most areas, providing entertainment to exercisers using stationary equipment. All studios are fully Internet-capable with audio-visual equipment provided.
The 60-person Welcome Center lounge and 40-person Game Lounge are also equipped with HDLP televisions and are fully Wi-Fi ready. XM Radio, a satellite radio service, rounds out the entertainment choices.
The innovation extends beyond the technology to include careful consideration of maintenance needs as well.
"Although most people are unaware, there is a seven-foot walk space underneath the facility," Johnson said. "The facility was built on structural posts, allowing more stability due to the notorious shifting caused by Yazoo clay. It provides immediate maintenance servicing access to the entire facility from underground."
As another added value, the facility contains the largest on-campus conference and meeting space. The three multipurpose studios combine to provide 8,000 square feet, and three parallel basketball courts provide a place where as many as 1,400 can dine banquet-style.
Daily programming options include intramurals, drop-in recreation and eight group fitness classes that are in high demand. Several wellness programs are also provided, including personal training, a free weights program for women, a weight-reduction program and a monthly educational open-dialogue seminar series called Wellness Wednesday.
Unique among many of its peers, JSU provides an employee wellness program. This is a 12-week group personal training program designed to help faculty and staff members who want to change their eating and physical activity habits, while getting a healthy dose of wellness education and positive socializing, Johnson explained.
"It started as The Biggest JSU Loser, but we've since changed the name to JSU PHAT (JSU Ultimately Proud, Healthy and Trim)," Johnson said. "We're currently on our third season of this amazing program. We've seen many tears, laughs and pant sizes slim down over the past year."
The facility has increased the university's visibility and recruitment capabilities, but more importantly, it is encouraging a new commitment to total wellness among the campus population.
"The facility has been very well received during our first year of operation," Johnson said. In one year, the facility has seen more than 97,000 visits, with usage climbing by the month.
Every week, between 2,000 and 2,500 people visit the facility and get a state-of-the-art experience of what recreation and fitness can do to improve overall wellness.