An Empowering Space 

Thanks to generous donors, student-athletes will return this fall to the new Empower Center, a $4 million, entirely donor-funded sports performance building.

For the past decade, UNC’s 400 student-athletes have been training in a 3,800-square-foot space near the main basketball courts in Bank of Colorado Arena at Butler-Hancock. UNC Director of Sports Performance Jeff Butler says that student-athletes make the best of the current space, but an upgrade to the training facility is one change they often say they would love to see for future Bears.    

Now, their dreams are coming true.      

UNC’s first 100% donor-funded campus building will be a new strength and training center for Bear student-athletes. Named the “Empower Center” by lead donors John ’84 and Angela ’89 Schmidt, the new facility will empower student athletes to succeed — and will help them apply the confidence and achievements they gain through their UNC experience to succeed throughout life.       

The new building — to be built south of Butler-Hancock — will cover 10,250-square-feet, more than two and a half times the current space, and will allow sports performance staff to coordinate workouts in larger groups and adjust scheduling to fit each student-athlete’s academic and practice needs.    

The Empower Center will offer a spacious weight room featuring 15 weight racks, expanded free weights, designated areas for warming up and rehabbing, and a med ball wall. The building will also sport high ceilings (crucial for the tall athletes who couldn’t do an overhead press in the previous space), indoor/outdoor access via garage doors, offices for the strength coaches, an enhanced nutrition station with dishwashers and blenders, along with the possibility to add on in the future.     

With this larger space and “the best strength staff in the country,” Butler says, “our imagination is the only limit.”       

More space means more athletes can have access to the facility at the same time — which can make a difference when it comes to scheduling and team camaraderie. With the current weight room, some teams are scheduled for very early morning workouts. Butler points out that when you add in studying and other time commitments, athletes may not be getting as much sleep as they need. “As your sleep improves, everything improves. That’s one of your number one metrics for improved performance — allowing student-athletes to get better quality sleep without having the anxiety of having 6 a.m. workouts,” Butler says.    

Daisy Shultz, a senior Business major on UNC’s volleyball team, agrees. “You can only have a certain number of teams in there at a time right now,” she says. “That’s a really big thing — being able to have more space and not have to work around every team. Our lifting time is at 7:30 a.m., so that wasn’t a huge factor for us, but there are teams in there at 5 a.m. every single day.”    

Butler says that not only will scheduling teams be more efficient, but the increased number of weight racks, expanded free weights and specialty equipment will help athletes as well. “We’re almost doubling everything that we have — expanding our dumbbell pit area, expanding the amount of specialty equipment that we can offer the athletes. Again, a lot more space offers a great flow where you can train multiple teams at once or give one team a ton of space for really optimal training.”    

Athletic Director Darren Dunn said the new facility was a collaborative effort, and cited UNC donors for making the state-of-the-art space a reality.    

“We want to recruit the best student-athletes, ‘Build Champions for Life,’ and win conference championships,” he says. “The Empower Center is a key foundational aspect to UNC’s future success, and it has truly been a collaborative effort, with donors, President Andy Feinstein, the advancement team, and coaches working together to make this project a reality. I am so thankful for our donors, Andy’s commitment to and belief in the project, Roche Constructors’ efforts, and everyone who has been involved. Our student-athletes deserve the best, 
and this will make such a difference for them.”    

Roche Constructors, a Greeley-based company with offices in Nevada, Indiana and Westminster, Colo., is also a donor to the project and will begin construction this spring with plans to complete the project in time for fall semester 2021.    

Feinstein also expresses his appreciation to all Empower Center donors. “I am so grateful for our donors’ generous investment in our students, our future and our community of Bears. I’d especially like to thank John and Angela Schmidt for their unwavering support of UNC, and their commitment to this project. Student-athletes are powerful ambassadors for our university and the Greeley community, and they represent us so well. The Empower Center is a great example of what we can achieve to position the next generation of UNC students for excellence when we work in partnership with our alumni and friends.”    

Student-athletes and coaches gathered to celebrate groundbreaking for the new facility on April 24, just before the start time for the annual Women’s Walk. Assistant Vice President for Development, Jenny Shoop ’08 ’09, says, “It’s exciting to finally break ground for this fully donor-funded facility and it’s a true testament to our passionate donors who believe in UNC.”    

“I’d like to give a huge thank you to the donors of the Empower Center for making it possible,” says Shultz. “Not only will this help UNC with getting better recruits here, I also think that it’s going to improve our athletes and improve the opportunities we have to be a better Division I school and a more competitive school. We’re all super grateful for that.”