JONESBORO, AR -- The new recreation and wellness center at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR, was more than 10 years in the making, but the facility was officially dedicated last week and opened for students.

The $18 million, 85,000-square-foot Red Wolf Recreational and Wellness Center replaces a 30-year-old facility that was originally built for academic use.

School officials said they hope the new center will increase student recruitment and retention, citing a study by Ohio State University that found recreation facilities ranked second only to academics in why students chose a college. In addition, officials said participation in campus rec programs helps students develop friendships and blend into the campus community, which enhances student retention rates.

Student leaders originally considered a new rec center in 1998, but it wasn’t until 2006, after a new student union was built, that the idea took root, Arkansas State's student newspaper reported. The center was paid for with student fees, which included a $5-per-credit-hour fee and increased student union fees.

The facility features a free-weight training room, a cardiovascular fitness room, meeting rooms for wellness classes, dance studios, an indoor walking and running track, and a multipurpose gymnasium for basketball and volleyball.