PHOENIX -- After narrowly escaping bankruptcy in 2004, Grand Canyon University (GCU) recently broke ground on a $60 million campus expansion that includes a 55,000-square-foot recreation and fitness center. The expansion project also includes a 5,000-seat events center and student dorms.

The campus expansion will accommodate GCU’s student increase. On-campus enrollment increased from 2,700 students in fall 2008 to 4,000 students for fall 2010. In addition, online enrollment increased from 21,955 in fall 2008 to 43,000 for fall 2010. GCU is a private, Christian university founded in 1949 that offers campus-based and online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.

Grand Canyon barely avoided bankruptcy in 2004 and was forced to sell its Phoenix campus to stay in business. It leased the property for five years, then was able to buy it back in 2009 for $50 million.

GCU adapted a new business model and became a publicly traded company in 2008. The school’s parent company is Grand Canyon Education Inc., which trades on NASDAQ.

After a successful year in 2009, which included an initial public offering and a profit boost of more than 100 percent driven primarily by increased enrollment in its online classes, the for-profit school decided to move forward on expansion plans for its only brick-and-mortar campus in Phoenix.

The rec center will include a student fitness center, three full basketball courts, locker rooms and practice facilities for wrestling, basketball and volleyball. It is expected to open by October 2010.