Welcome to Wellville

Asheville and environs has a rich history as a health haven, ranging from 19th- and early 20th-century resorts and tuberculosis care to today’s diverse healing arts.

And that focus seems likely to grow in years to come, thanks partly to the N.C. Center for Health & Wellness. About 100 people braved a brisk spring wind on April 29 as a host of dignitaries broke ground on the new $42 million center near the heart of the UNCA campus.

Dig it: Local dignitaries break ground April 29 on the $42 million N.C. Center for Health & Wellness at UNCA. Photo By Jonathan Welch

“I’m so thankful this day is here. Yea!” exclaimed former state Rep. Wilma Sherrill, whose speech was briefly interrupted as a gust of wind nearly blew over the portable shelter she and other dignitaries shared.

Sherrill was largely responsible for securing $35 million from the General Assembly to build the 133,500-square-foot facility, which aims to benefit people across the state. Fundraising efforts are expected to cover the remaining costs, with $5 million collected so far.

“I’m very excited about what you’re doing—not only for Western North Carolina but for all of North Carolina,” said Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Chapel Hill, who is speaker of the state House.

The center will serve many functions. “In 2010, our new building will allow us to accommodate our rapidly growing degree program in health-and-wellness promotion,” said Keith Ray, chair of the university’s health-and-wellness department. “[It will help us] expand our multidisciplinary-research projects, share meeting and conference space with our community partners, host regional health fairs, operate summer conferences and institutes, establish an incubator program for wellness-related enterprises, host an ongoing distinguished-speaker series, and expand our demonstration-and-outreach initiatives.”

The facility will include classrooms, research and teaching labs, cardiovascular and strength-training rooms, offices, meeting rooms and seminar space, studios for dance, aerobics, yoga and other physical-activity courses, a wellness café and teaching kitchen, plus business-incubator space. In addition, the 4,000-seat Kimmel Arena will provide space for commencement ceremonies, speakers and symposiums, not to mention a new venue for Bulldogs basketball games.

At its heart, though, the center will combine teaching, research, community outreach and community collaborations to help address the state’s most pressing health concerns, with an initial focus on childhood obesity as well as workplace and senior wellness.

“Working together, we will build a national model that enhances student learning, strengthens the economy and improves the health and well-being of the community,” said Ray. “Ultimately, we must work together to create a wellness culture in North Carolina and America.”

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