BERRIEN SPRINGS — It was a day to celebrate all things related to health and wellness Thursday with the ribbon cutting for the new Andreasen Center for Wellness on the Andrews University campus.

The $18.5 million building has been under construction for 18 months and in the planning for several years previously.

The new center is located between the Howard Performing Arts Center and Pioneer Memorial Church on the edge of the Andrews campus. With walls of glass on all four sides, the 72,000 square foot center offers panoramic views of the campus while providing gardens and spaces for relaxation and healing.

University and local officials at the ribbon cutting ceremony hope the opening of the center will mark the start of a new era of wellness for the university and the greater community. As speakers noted Thursday, the center is about much more than fitness as it also serves people’s mental and spiritual needs.

The public will get the chance to see everything for themselves at an open house Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The center will officially open to the public Oct. 6.

The center will be a place where people can meet, work out, swim, get healthy food, learn about health topics and just relax.

The Recreation Center part of the building contains a gym with regulation-sized volleyball and basketball courts for the use of Andrews students. It will be the home for many of the activities that previously took place in the Johnson Gym.

Most of the building is open to everyone – students, staff and community – and has everything from an indoor track, saltwater pool, whirlpool and dry sauna to fitness equipment, weight machines, freestanding weights and large classrooms for nutrition and other classes. There are also outdoor gardens designed to promote relaxation and spiritual and mental health.

People can learn more about the center, its amenities and membership fees at www.andrews.edu/wellnesscenter.

“This is a very special moment for the university,” University Wellness Director Dominique Gummelt said. “We launched the campaign to become the healthiest university in the nation in the fall of 2015 and this center is a big part of it. Our goal is for everyone to live life to the fullest and thrive in every way.”

“The center is an incredible tool to transform, enhance and save lives,” she added. “It is an oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation where we can become world changers.”

Oronoko Township Supervisor Mike Hildebrand congratulated Andrews for their commitment to the community. He noted that the university has been transformed in recent years with the construction of the new entrance, the Howard Performing Arts Center and now the Andreasen Center.

He also spoke of wellness and recreation efforts going on in the Berrien Springs area, including plans to build new parks and the possibility of extending the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail north to Berrien Springs and beyond.

“What if our community could join in with the university to be the healthiest community?” he asked.

Andrews University President Andrea Luxton said the new center is designed to not only promote wellness with students and staff but also to connect with the greater community.

“Bringing everyone together as a community is exactly what this building is all about,” she said. “This is a place where people can work out together and talk together.”

Andrews President’s Council Co-Chair Paul Stokstad told those gathered that the vision for the new center came from former Andrews President Niels-Erik Andreasen and that it’s fitting that the building is named for him.

“He came to us seven or eight years ago with his vision for not only a fitness center but a wellness center,” he said. “The goal is not just for students to be well for the years they are here but for the rest of their lives.”