When New Jersey Institute of Technology cut the ribbon on its new 220,000-square-foot Wellness and Events Center on Friday morning, all of the biggest dignitaries from the university, the city and the county came to participate.
And for good reason.
The center, filled with learning, meeting and fitness centers — along with state-of-the-art facilities for many of the school’s 17 Division I sports teams — is more than just a gym. And it’s for more than just the students at the school.
Local officials hope the building, striking with its 57-foot glass side, not only will become the focal point of the university but a key part of Newark, as well.
“The WEC isn’t just a gym, it’s a building that brings more life to our campus,” NJIT board of trustees Chair Stephen DePalma said. “It will be a critical component for our efforts to engage and partner with business industries and government, to spur economic development and to create opportunities for our students and our graduates.”
The conference center can hold up to 4,000 attendees.
NJIT President Joel Bloom said it is intended to be another way for the school’s students and alumni to interact with the business community.
“That was a big part of why we did this,” Bloom said. “It’s got flexible, adaptable space to allow us to do so many things.”
The following are just some of its benefits.
Athletics: The complex will support NJIT athletes in baseball, basketball, fencing, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball, with dedicated locker rooms and athletic staff offices, a full-length practice court, a main-concourse running track, an 11,580-square-foot turf room and a 25-yard/eight-lane swimming and diving pool.
While the building can seat a capacity crowd of 3,500 for basketball, officials said the arena is transformable to meet the programmatic needs of different sports events, and features a press box for the soccer stadium and an ESPN production room.
Training and wellness: The training room features three hydrotherapy pools, as well as a strength and conditioning room, to enrich the development of student athletes. The 5,710-square-foot fitness center offers access to fitness and strength training equipment, weight stations, racquetball courts and group exercise space for activities such as yoga, aerobics and Pilates.
Community spaces: The building not only offers various places for students to congregate, socialize and study, but also functions as a site for events to be held right in the community, as retractable grandstands enable the arena to easily convert to a hall for concerts, conventions, convocations and more.
Learning spaces: The building includes a 90-seat tiered lecture room in addition to high-tech meeting rooms and open floor space for science fairs and competitions.
The WEC is the centerpiece of the university’s $400 million campus transformation for learning and research. One that DePalma said was very much needed.
“This campus has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years,” he said. “And that was indeed necessary. NJIT is one of the premiere technological universities in the United States, and, in order for us to maintain that stature, it was necessary to invest in facilities that support the academic needs of our students, the research needs of our faculty and the economic development needs of our city, state and region.
“The board of trustees recognized this need and were very courageous in moving forward to create spaces that will enable NJIT to engage and collaborate with business partners and community organizations as well as attract national organizations and conferences.”
Mike Siegel, a professor of mathematical sciences and the faculty athletic representative for the school, said the building will be transformational for the university.
“The WEC will have a huge impact on the quality of student life at NJIT,” he said. “It’s much more than a great place to watch or participate in your favorite sport. The WEC is a meeting space for clubs and events, a place to hang out with friends, an event space for conferences, concerts and convocations.”
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the building represents the new Newark.
“This is an outstanding day in the city of Newark,” he said. “This is not only an opportunity for the school, it is an opportunity for the city. It represents where the city is going and NJIT is an intricate part of that.”