Along with space for group exercise, spinning and yoga classes and a large community fitness center, the plan includes two indoor basketball courts, a healthy smoothie bar, and a recreational pool with a lakeside infinity edge, as well as a relaxation terrace and garden.
There also will be several multipurpose rooms, which could be used as space for meditation, specialty classes, and gaming.
Construction is expected to start in April, and university officials hope to open the Wellness Center in Fall 2021.
“This day is finally here; praise God,” said D. Dewey Mitchell, chair of the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees. “This is a wonderful amenity for the university and the community.”
Creative Contractors of Clearwater, FL, is the construction firm for the project while S3 Design Inc. of Braintree, MA, is handling the architectural design; and JLL of Tampa will provide project management services.
Prior to the groundbreaking, Abbot Isaac Camacho, OSB, a Saint Leo alumnus, blessed the site.
“You stand on sacred ground,” Bailey told the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking. She reminded everyone about the founding of the university by the Benedictine sisters and monks. They sunk “their roots deep into Florida’s oldest incorporated town,” she noted.
While the land that Saint Leo occupies once was home to orange groves, a different type of tree was found growing on the property as clearing began. The Saint Leo Abbey Church is known as “the church that orange juice built,” as the Benedictine monks traded oranges and grapefruits to Saint Meinrad Abbey in Indiana for sandstone, which was used to construct the church, consecrated in 1948. As work began on the site for the Wellness Center, an original olive tree was discovered while clearing the overgrowth on the property.
The olive tree will be transplanted during construction for safekeeping, and then replanted into the meditative gardens of the Wellness Center, tying the history of Saint Leo to its future.
“We are creating an iconic building for Pasco County, Tampa Bay and Florida. It is our vision that this building will take your breath away,” said University President Senese.