Alvernia announces most ambitious expansion in university history
Alvernia University’s Board of Trustees has approved plans to build an innovative Recreation, Wellness and Health Sciences Complex, called “The PLEX”, as the highlight of a new East Campus at the institution’s Reading, Pa., location. It will be the largest, most ambitious expansion in university history, adding more than 100,000 square feet of academic and recreation space and 15 acres to campus.
The surprise announcement was made to hundreds of cheering freshman students, the incoming class of 2020, as part of their first day on campus. This is an extraordinary time in the life of our institution and we thought it was appropriate for our newest students to hear about the plans as they arrived on campus,” said Alvernia President Thomas F. Flynn. “Never has the university cast such a bold vision in providing our students with best-in-class academic and recreation facilities to catalyze their future success.”
Plans for the new facility are a result of careful development by trustees and university leadership to ensure economic efficiency, environmental stewardship and community integration. They reflect a highly cost-effective and creative approach to holistically advance health and wellness that makes prudent use of donor and university capital while adding value to the region as well as the student experience, according to Flynn.
The PLEX will include indoor practice space for student-athletes and provide indoor recreation opportunities for the Reading community, complementing existing outdoor recreational facilities in nearby Angelica Park and elsewhere on Alvernia’s main campus. “While students will enjoy the building’s generous academic and recreation spaces, area residents will be able to use the athletic facilities during designated times,” said Flynn.
Local high schools and clubs will have the ability to access the complex for track meets and other indoor athletic events, and community organizations will be able to access The PLEX’s meeting spaces and lecture rooms, according to Flynn.
The new facility will allow Alvernia to expand its popular doctorate in physical therapy and other successful health science related programs. Expansion of those programs will significantly grow the number of Alvernia trained nurses and healthcare professionals produced each year. Many of these individuals will continue to work and live in Reading and Berks County after graduating, contributing to both the local community’s civic vitality and the region’s economy.
The PLEX and East Campus will be located off St. Bernardine Street on a parcel of land that borders Angelica Park. It is adjacent to the school’s existing Reading location and sits directly across from its newly opened campus entrance, arrival court and Welcome Center situated in the university’s most historic building, Francis Hall. Creation of the new campus entrance, which serves as the main entryway to the university, includes a scenic boulevard that also leads to the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters’ convent. The sisters founded the institution in 1958.
“We recognize these investments are imperative to support our popular programs in the fast growing healthcare field and essential to enhance our position as a comprehensive regional university,” said Flynn. He also noted that crucial project fundraising efforts necessary to support construction of the project are underway.
Several community leaders have stepped forward to guide The PLEX fundraising campaign including: Campaign Co-Chairs Michael Fromm, president & CEO of Fromm Electric Supply Corp., and Angel Helm, retired investment banker; Honorary Co-Chairs Tom Martell, former owner and CEO of the Hub Fabricating Corp., and his wife Marcia, a prominent community volunteer, and Joanne Judge, attorney and shareholder in the Stevens & Lee law firm and co-chairwoman of its Health Care Practice Group and her husband Rick Oppenheimer, group chair for Vistage International, Inc.
“While we already have some funding set aside to support The PLEX project, during the next several years, the university will work to secure the needed remaining funds to break ground on the project,” said Flynn. “Our success is dependent on the generous support of others to make the project come to life.”
Highlights of the historic project include:
• A 35,000 square-foot academic wing to house leading-edge interprofessional education programs that will engage students from athletic training, counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing and social work programs to enhance total patient care. Academic spaces will be designed to promote shared learning and integrative practices across a broad spectrum of healthcare and human service fields. This approach helps students develop expertise within their individual disciplines while enhancing understanding of other fields and demonstrating the importance of teamwork and effective communications in integrated patient care.
• A 70,000 square-foot field house, designed to provide indoor recreation space for all students and the campus community. Included in the facility is a six-lane, NCAA competition-level indoor track. Four, full-sized sport courts will also be offered, providing space that will complement Alvernia’s current Physical Education Center as an indoor practice facility for a variety of athletic activities including baseball, basketball, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track and volleyball.
Plans also include expanded parking for more than 200 vehicles.