Preston renovation plans include climbing wall

WKU’s Raymond B. Preston Health & Activities Center will close starting Friday, March 13 at 4:30 p.m. due to WKU policy changes as a response to the coronavirus. 

Nicole Ziege

Preston Center is expected to undergo an estimated $18.7 million renovation project within the next 8-10 years that will include a rock climbing wall, a demonstration kitchen and a multi-activity court gymnasium among other new features.

Steve Rey, director of WKU’s Intramural Sports, said the project will be completely funded by university donations and is intended to help student recruitment and retention.

“This project has been student-driven,” Rey said. “We focused on what students wanted and what our focus groups wanted in order to start phase three of the renovations to Preston.”

Among the renovations, there will be a two-story, 2,000-square-foot rock climbing wall built near the Preston Center entrance, according to renovation plans.

Rey said the wall was highly requested by students, faculty, staff and alumni because WKU is one of the only universities in the state that does not currently have a rock climbing wall.

“We want to be able to add to our facility for our prospective students,” Rey said.

More highlights in the plan include a multi-activity court gymnasium on the first floor meant for indoor hockey and soccer, an expanded outdoor recreation adventure center on the building’s lower level for outdoor student programs and a “wet classroom” on the first floor to be attached to the Bill Powell Natatorium designed for special aquatics classes and training.

Near the MAC gym, Rey said a demonstration kitchen will be built to allow student instruction on cooking and preparing meals. He said it may also help students suffering from eating disorders learn about nutrition on campus.

Brandi Breden, WKU’s coordinator for nutritional services and campus nutritionist, said in an email she was excited about the new demonstration kitchen being built because it allows for endless options to help students learn about nutrition.

“We want to use it to teach students how to cook, we want to hold our nutrition presentations in the kitchen [and] we want to hold workshops,” Breden said in her email.

The renovations will be the third phase of renovations to the building since its original construction in 1992. The second phase of indoor renovations were completed in 2010.

Rey said he met with WKU’s Office of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement on Oct. 29 to work on strategies for identifying potential donors and meeting alumni. Rey said he also wants to work with the Preston Family Foundation, which helped fund the original building’s construction and the 2010 renovations, again in order to help fund the project.

Ryan Dearbone, WKU’s assistant director of college advancement, is working with Rey in funding the project. Dearbone said although Rey was spearheading the project, he was also excited about it.

“We’re here to help identify potential alumni to help get the project going,” Dearbone said.

Taylor McGuire, senior health sciences major and student employee at the Preston Center, said she and the other Preston employees learned about the upcoming renovations at a meeting before the start of the fall semester.

“The kind of stuff they’re doing is in demand, I think,” McGuire said.

McGuire said the indoor MAC gymnasium will provide students with more sports options such as football and soccer. Currently students are not allowed to play those sports inside the building due to the lack of artificial turf flooring. She said as a student worker, the expanded storage space from the renovations will also be beneficial.

Even though she said she is not a fan of heights, McGuire expressed her enthusiasm for the upcoming rock climbing wall.

“I feel like the rock wall would be really cool,” McGuire said. “I think a lot of people would like it.”


News reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.