Will legislators agree?

The Minnesota Legislature usually reserves large bonding bills that provide funds for various public works projects for its roster of business in even-numbered years, but it looks like Gov. Mark Dayton will urge members to consider one this year as well. He's expected to suggest a bonding package with a price tag of around $750, a third more than the bill passed by the previous legislature.

    As always, the University of Minnesota is waiting in the wings with a list of projects to fund at all of its campuses throughout the state, which it will present if a bonding bill moves forward. The largest single item among the requests for building construction, repairs, renovations and updates is an ambitious $12 million for an expanded wellness and recreation center on the U of M, Crookston campus.

    Although the center is far from a done deal, it does look promising and could become a reality within a couple of years, should a bonding bill be passed this session. With the design and other details of the proposed center yet to be worked out, input from both the campus and Crookston community will be vital to developing the final product.

    This could very well end up being one of those "build it and they will come" things. The current UMC athletic facility, while adequate to accommodate Golden Eagles sporting events, is lacking when it comes to individual student needs. While no one expects such a center to be the sole reason any prospective student would choose UMC over another college, it does have the potential to help seal the deal. With so many higher education campuses touting new state-of-the-art wellness centers in their promotional packages, this could give UMC a competitive edge in that area and help tip the scales for those who've placed it at the top of their potential schools list.

    So in designing the center, student needs and desires must be the first priority. Their fees will help pay for it, after all. It's also important to take into account what Crookston and surrounding communities could use in the area of wellness. Even with several privately-owned fitness centers in the area, there are gaps in terms of health and wellness issues. Pinpointing these gaps and coming up with something to fill them could easily make the UMC wellness center a regional attraction for health-minded groups and individuals.

    It's hard not to get excited out the prospect of a new wellness center. Perhaps if we push our legislators enough, they'll all see how vital this is to us up here and pass the bonding bill with the center included.