Stetson starts on aquatic center

Breaking ground — Stetson University leaders and athletes at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center, from left, are Xavier Mulligan, member of the Stetson University rowing team; Karen Ryan, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Preston T. Phillips, the architect who designed the center; Stetson University President Wendy B. Libby; Sarah Burnham, member of the Stetson University rowing team; Athletics Director Jeff Altier; and Assistant Coach Stephen Harris.

Breaking ground — Stetson University leaders and athletes at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center, from left, are Xavier Mulligan, member of the Stetson University rowing team; Karen Ryan, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Preston T. Phillips, the architect who designed the center; Stetson University President Wendy B. Libby; Sarah Burnham, member of the Stetson University rowing team; Athletics Director Jeff Altier; and Assistant Coach Stephen Harris.

PHOTO COURTESY STETSON UNIVERSITY

IMAGE COURTESY STETSON UNIVERSITY  What it will look like — A rendering shows the new Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center along Lake Beresford.

IMAGE COURTESY STETSON UNIVERSITY

What it will look like — A rendering shows the new Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center along Lake Beresford.

April 28 marked a groundbreaking on the western shore of Lake Beresford for the future home for Stetson University rowing teams and researchers with the university’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience.

The 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility also will allow for public recreation when it is completed next year.

The much-anticipated Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center is named for a great-granddaughter of university namesake John B. Stetson. Sandra Stetson donated $6 million for the project, including $1.5 million that has been placed into an endowment to maintain and operate the building.

Volusia County also awarded a $400,000 grant from the ECHO program (for environmental, cultural, historical and outdoor recreation projects) to build public restrooms and public parking on the 10-acre lakefront site, and to provide a public launch for canoes and kayaks.

At the ceremony, Stetson University President Dr. Wendy B. Libby expressed gratitude to Sandra Stetson.

“This facility is not only a mark of Sandra’s generosity, but it will enshrine the Stetson family name on a university structure once again,” Libby said. “Sandra is a donor who cares about the environment and shares a love for the water. Her generosity allows us to put water recreation and sport and research together under one roof.”

While Lake Beresford is excellent for rowing, it is also ideal for research and developing innovative technical, social and political solutions to protect freshwater resources and related environmental concerns. The Aquatic Center will enhance Stetson research at the Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience. While the institute will remain on campus, the center will serve as its research arm.

“This facility is the realization of a dream,” said Karen Ryan, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “A place for the institute to call home and a place for our students and faculty to interact with the water and environment around us.”

Stetson leased the site for a decade before purchasing it four years ago for its rowing teams. Currently, the teams keep their crew boats in a greenhouse building on the site. The new aquatic center will provide storage for 60 boats on the first floor, as well as rowing machines for the team’s daily workouts.

The center will be used for rowing competitions and as a winter training site for high-school and college rowing teams from colder climates. For the past four years, Stetson University has hosted the fall Rendezvous Regatta, the largest racing regatta in Florida, with more than 1,100 participants and 3,000 spectators.

The Aquatic Center’s second floor will have a vaulted ceiling and glass walls on three sides with a balcony that will wrap around three sides of the building.

From the exterior, the roof is designed to resemble a boat. Outside, trails and elevated walkways will lead to the water’s edge. Along Lake Beresford, there will be docks to launch crew boats and a viewing platform that will overlook the lake.

The aquatic center was designed by Preston T. Phillips of Bridgehampton, New York, who was recommended to Stetson University by Sandra Stetson.

— Joe Crews

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