Mayo partners with Bethany on new fitness center | Local News

MANKATO — Bethany Lutheran College and its next-door neighbor have been connecting more in recent years. Starting next year, they’ll even be going to the same gym.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato has agreed to provide an undisclosed level of support for Bethany’s new Wellness Center, the college announced Tuesday. In return, Mayo employees will be able to use the fitness center being constructed just a block west of the Mankato hospital.

President Gene Pfeifer described the college as “very thankful for the support” as well as for other recent partnerships with its longtime neighbor on Marsh Street. Those collaborations include the 2018 agreement to have Mayo provide health care services to Bethany students and staff in an on-campus office and the 2019 contract to provide training services to Vikings athletes.

“They are of tremendous benefit to our students on our growing campus,” Pfeifer said in a statement announcing the latest partnership.

Although Bethany and Mayo aren’t releasing any of the financial details of the arrangement, it won’t be an exclusive naming rights deal.

Mayo’s contribution is focused on the 16,000-square-foot portion of the 84,000 facility that will house fitness and exercise rooms. Signs in that part of the facility will acknowledge the Mayo partnership but the fitness center won’t be named after the health care provider, Bethany spokesman Lance Schwartz said.

Fundraising continues for the $16.7 million facility, and the opportunity remains for a donor’s name to be attached to the overall structure or components of it.

“Bethany continues to seek additional partners for a variety of sponsorship and naming rights opportunities in the Activity and Wellness Center,” Schwartz said.

The facility, originally carrying an $18 million estimated price tag, has been downsized a bit in the name of cost savings. The second floor of the wellness center, for instance, has been eliminated.

But the Activity and Wellness Center remains one of the biggest construction projects in Bethany history and will include a field house with a 200-meter track, a turf infield, locker rooms and gathering spaces.

Bethany Lutheran College’s $16.7 million Activity and Wellness Center, totaling 84,000 square feet, is expected to open next February.

Roughly $10 million in donations had already been received or pledged when Bethany’s Board of Trustees gave the final go-ahead for the project in September. Construction began in November.

The deal with Mayo includes opportunities for education and guest lecture opportunities. Although the facilities are being created primarily for Bethany athletes, students and staff, times will be agreed to where Mayo employees will have access to what Schwartz described as “top-of-the-line exercise equipment in two large exercise and fitness areas.”

Dr. James Hebl, regional vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System in southwest Minnesota, said in a statement the organization is “thrilled to be expanding our relationship” with Bethany.

The college also intends to make the multi-purpose facility available for rental use by youth sports teams and community groups in the broader Mankato area. The Activity and Wellness Center is expected to be completed and open for use in February 2023.

The current construction is the largest piece of a multi-phase upgrade of athletics facilities that began with the Bethany baseball team’s move to city-owned Franklin Rogers Park. With the on-campus ball diamond no longer needed, space was available at the corner of Marsh and Division streets for the new field house and fitness center. First came the addition of a $1.6 million artificial turf soccer field, which debuted in 2019 and was part of a $3 million project that also included a stormwater retention pond.

When the field house is completed, renovations are planned for the Ronald Younge Gymnasium, the larger of Bethany’s two gyms and home to everything from basketball games to graduation ceremonies.

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