Jacobson Human Performance Complex

Human Performance Complex


The Human Performance Center was planned to be part of the physical education, recreation, and athletics complex west of Hudson Road.  The complex includes the Physical Education Center, completed in 1971; the UNI-Dome, completed in 1976; the Wellness and Recreation Center, completed in 1998, and the McLeod Center, completed in 2006.

Early in 2001, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Rick Hartzell outlined his dream for the new center.  He said that the new facility "would allow us to partner with the community on a medical complex; it would allow the School of HPELS to have a quality facility from which to deliver several of its programs; and it would provide the Department of Athletics office space, locker rooms, and meeting rooms for student-athletes and a state-of-the-art weight room and conditioning center."

In February 2001, the university announced a $500,000 donation by Richard O. Jacobson, owner of the Des Moines-based Jacobson Warehouse Company, to begin the funding of the proposed $7 million Human Performance Center.  Mr. Jacobson, a well-known philanthropist, commented, "The HPC is centered around athletics . . . That's an extremely important department for any university or college, because it produces opportunities for leadership.  And if there is one thing our country has a tremendous appetite for, it's leadership."

Preliminary planning indicated that the first floor would include the intercollegiate athletic complex and weight room.  An athletic training and research laboratory, physicians' offices, and physical therapy would be a part of the second floor.  Housed on the third floor would be the Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services research complex. The 50,000 square foot facility would be built north of the Dome.

Computer model
Computer image, 2003.

Both academic and athletic officials seemed pleased with the prospect of the new building.  Christopher Edginton, Director of the School of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Servies, liked the relationship that would be established with local health care facilities and providers.  Justin Sell, of the Intercollegiate Athletics administration, believed that the center would help UNI to recruit athletes.  Kevin Buisman, Associate Athletic Director, was named to manage fundraising for the center.

In December 2001, Representative Jim Nussle and Senator Tom Harkin announced that a $1.8 million federal grant had been approved for the Human Performance Center.  In January 2002, the Board of Regents authorized UNI to proceed with planning and to hire an architect for the new facility, with a budget of $7.5 million for the building.  The university decided to combine the McLeod Center project with the Human Performance Center project.  The two buildings would be considered one project in terms of fundraising and architectural design.  Fundraising for the project would be included in UNI's Students First Capital Campaign. 

In August 2002 the firm of Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck of Des Moines was hired as architect for the project.  This company had earlier served as architect for the Residence on the Hill project and the renovation of the Rod Library. Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck, a national architectural award winner, would work with Crawford Architects of Kansas City.

Computer model
Computer image, 2003.

As of August 2002, an estimated $19 million had been raised toward funding the two buildings, $15 million for the McLeod Center and $4 million for the Human Performance Center.  William Calhoun, Vice President for University Advancement, stated that groundbreaking would take place when UNI had secured $25 million in gifts and pledges.  He hoped that that would occur in the fall of 2003.

In April 2004, the McElroy Trust announced a challenge grant of $500,000 for the Human Performance Center. To receive that grant, the UNI Foundation would need to raise $1 million.

On June 14, 2005, President Koob and Vice President for Administration and Finance Tom Schellhardt presented plans for the Human Performance Center to the Board of Regents.  The Regents voted unanimously in favor of the plans.  This gave UNI permission to complete detailed sketches and seek bids, possibly by the end of summer 2005. The project might then be completed by spring 2007.

Plans called for a 38,450 square foot facility to include programs and services associated with the School for Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services, such as: the Sport and Human Performance Center, Camp Adventure, the Global Health Corps, and the National Program for Playground Safety.  In addition, space would be leased by Allen Hospital's Northeast Iowa Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Clinic.  The Human Performance Center was budgeted at about $6.9 million, with funding to come from a $1.8 million federal grant, rent from the leased space, private donations, and university sources.

Early in 2006, project architects stated that their latest cost estimate for the building were $1.3 million over budget.  To bring the project within budget, the architects recommended that the building be constructed in an area between the Wellness/Recreation Center and the UNI-Dome, as opposed to the original plan for a location west of the Wellness/Recreation Center.  Because this would be a major change, the proposal for the new location had to be presented to the Board of Regents. The architects worked with the University to prepare new schematic designs for the Board of Regents meeting in March 2006.

At the March 2006 meeting the Regents approved the new design and location.  The new design was about seventeen per cent smaller than the 38,450 square feet specifications of the original plans, but with only a minimal reduction in usable space. The exterior glass curtainwall would be reduced in size, the structural system would be simplified, and utility relocations would be limited in order to keep the building within its original $6.95 million budget.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Human Performance Center was held on Friday, July 21, 2006, at 2PM.  According to the invitation to the ceremony, the Center "will focus on innovative healthy youth and sports medicine programs supported through a number of unique community partnerships."  At the ceremony President Benjamin Allen stated that "This is a hallmark example of the university's commitment to engagement of the larger community."  Professor Chris Edginton, Director of the School of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Services, said that "The Human Performance Center is an expression of our will to prosper, grow, and succeed and the will of the community to support us."  Plans called for Camp Adventure, the Global Health Corps, the National Playground Safety program, and the youth and human services administration to be located in the building.  In addition, a sports medicine clinic, administered by Allen Hospital and Cedar Valley Medical Specialists, would be located there. The building was scheduled to be completed by December 2007.

In September 2007, Richard O. Jacobson, a Des Moines businessman who had made an earlier donation to the complex, pledged $3 million to the project.  A condition of his pledge was that the university would raise an additional $2 million.  In that same month, the Board of Regents approved naming the facility the Richard O. Jacobson Human Performance Complex.  The total cost of the facility was about $7.8 million.

By December 2007, the building was nearly complete, though many areas did not open for service until January 2008.  Crews installed equipment and furnishings to serve a mix of curricular, sports medicine, and leisure services programming.  The first floor of the building included classrooms and research space for the athletic training curriculum in the School of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services.  It also included offices for medical professionals, who specialize in orthopedics and physical therapy.  That area featured magnetic resonance imaging and an underwater treadmill.  Offices for the Global Health Corps, the National Program for Playground Safety, and Camp Adventure were located on the upper level of the building.


Originally compiled by Library Assistant Gail Briddle, August 2001; updated September 2002; substantially revised by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, with research assistance by Student Assistant Janelle Iseminger, March 2003; last updated, September 28, 2011 (GP).  


Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives
University of Northern Iowa
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Telephone: (319)-273-6307
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Email: Gerald.Peterson@uni.edu