Saint Leo University Breaks Ground for Wellness Center

For Immediate Release: February 7, 2020


Saint Leo University Breaks Ground for Wellness Center

59,000-Square-Foot Facility Will Provide Space for Health, Recreation, Counseling Services


  1. LEO, FL – Saint Leo University broke ground Thursday, February 6, for a Wellness Center located on the west end of campus by Lake Jovita. The 59,000-square-foot facility will create an environment for holistic health and well-being that integrates student recreation, fitness, health services, counseling services, and campus ministry.

Focusing on the body, mind, and spirit, Saint Leo’s new Wellness Center will provide space for group exercise, spinning and yoga classes, and a large community fitness center. In addition, there will be two indoor basketball courts, a healthy smoothie bar, and a recreational pool with a lakeside infinity edge, as well as a relaxation terrace and garden. There also will be several multipurpose rooms, which could be used as space for meditation, specialty classes, and gaming.

As the university has grown, there has been increased student demand on the current spaces. Saint Leo officials also wanted to provide a facility that will provide for students’ physical and emotional well-being. Many of the services now offered in DeChantal Hall will move to the new facility.

Construction tentatively will begin in April, and university officials hope to open the Wellness Center in Fall 2021.

“This day is finally here; praise God,” said D. Dewey Mitchell, chair of the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees. “This is a wonderful amenity for the university and the community.”

Creative Contractors of Clearwater, FL, is serving as the construction firm for the project while S3 Design Inc. of Braintree, MA, is handling the architectural design; and JLL of Tampa will provide project management services.

Fundraising is taking place for the Wellness Center, and the university is in discussion with several health care providers that potentially could serve the community by delivering medical services on-site.

Mitchell, chair of the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees, welcomed everyone to the Wellness Center groundbreaking while Dr. Melanie Storms, senior vice president, served as the emcee for Thursday’s ceremony. Sister Roberta Bailey, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, provided those in attendance with a historical perspective on the property, and University President Jeffrey D. Senese made remarks about the benefits of the Wellness Center. Prior to the groundbreaking, Abbot Isaac Camacho, OSB, a Saint Leo alumnus, blessed the site.

“You stand on sacred ground,” Bailey told the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking. She reminded everyone about the founding of the university by the Benedictine sisters and monks. They sunk “their roots deep into Florida’s oldest incorporated town,” she noted.

Saving a tree

While the land that Saint Leo occupies once was home to orange groves, a different type of tree was found growing on the property as clearing began. The Saint Leo Abbey Church is known as “the church that orange juice built,” as the Benedictine monks traded oranges and grapefruits to Saint Meinrad Abbey in Indiana for sandstone, which was used to construct the church, consecrated in 1948. As work began on the site for the Wellness Center, an original olive tree was discovered while clearing the overgrowth on the property.

The olive tree will be transplanted during construction for safekeeping, and then replanted into the meditative gardens of the Wellness Center, tying the history of Saint Leo to its future.

Looking ahead

Emphasizing the impact the Wellness Center will make, University President Senese said, “We are creating an iconic building for Pasco County, Tampa Bay, and Florida. It is our vision that this building will take your breath away.”


Photo captions/cutlines

Photo by Renee Gerstein, Saint Leo University

Jon Akvan, project manager, JLL; Troy Powell, project manager; Creative Contractors Inc.; Dr. Melanie Storms, Saint Leo University senior vice president; Jose Caban, Saint Leo associate vice president of Facilities Management; Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, Saint Leo president; Celine-Deon Palmer, Student Government Union president; D. Dewey Mitchell, Saint Leo Board of Trustees chair; Alan Bomstein, CEO, Creative Contractors; and Joshua Bomstein, president, Creative Contractors at the ceremonial groundbreaking of Saint Leo University’s new Wellness Center


Artist’s rendering provided by Saint Leo University and S3 Design Inc.

Saint Leo University Wellness Center poolside perspective

More renderings are available. Contact Saint Leo University


About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 19,500 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 32 education centers in seven states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 95,000 alumni. Learn more at

Media Contact: Mary McCoy, University Writer & Media Relations, [email protected], (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416

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