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Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center

Stetson plans to break ground in the spring of 2017 for the Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center, named for a great-granddaughter of the university’s namesake, John B. Stetson. The 10,000-square-foot center will be the home for the Stetson University Rowing Teams and will provide space for water research when completed by late December 2017.

Sandra Stetson donated $6 million for the project, and $1.5 million of that was put into an endowment to maintain and operate the building. In addition, Volusia County awarded a $400,000 grant from the ECHO program (for environmental, cultural, historical and outdoor recreational projects) to build public restrooms, a public launch for canoes and kayaks and public parking on the 10-acre lakefront site.

The new aquatic center will provide storage for up to 60 boats on the first floor, house rowing machines for the teams’ daily workouts and lockers. There will also be a recruitment area with a conference room and big-screen TVs to host prospective athletes and their families.

The second floor will include space with a science lab for research, teaching and Stetson’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience. A large meeting room upstairs will provide a “neutral ground” for government leaders, citizens, activists groups and others to work on solutions to complex environmental problems.

Also on the second floor, the aquatic center will have solid glass walls on three sides for a maximized view. Visitors can step outside onto a balcony that will wrap around three sides of the building. The second-floor ceiling will be vaulted. From the exterior, the roof is designed to resemble a boat.

Outside, trails and elevated walkways will lead to the water’s edge and continue through a garden named after 18th-century botanist John Bartram. Along Lake Beresford, there will be docks to launch crew “shells” and a viewing platform that will overlook the lake, which connects to the St. Johns River.

The building, furnishings and site work will cost $4.9 million. During construction, the rowing teams will continue to train at the site.

The aquatic center was designed by architect Preston T. Phillips of Bridgehampton, N.Y., who was recommended to Stetson University by Sandra Stetson to design and provide the architectural and engineering for the project 

Stetson is currently seeking bids from five construction firms and should select one in January 2017.