Cornell College Richard and Norma Small Athletic and Wellness Center (SAW) exterior
Cornell College Richard and Norma Small Athletic and Wellness Center (SAW) / Mount VernonIA
Revitalizing a vital hub for health and wellness

The renovated Richard and Norma Small Athletic and Wellness Center (SAW), located in Mount Vernon, Iowa, features a 25,000-square-foot expansion, new lobby, classrooms, fitness studios, and a two-story wellness center. It improves the strength and conditioning program and overall wellness for student-athletes and will have a direct effect on both student-athlete recruitment and retention. 

Initially constructed in 1953, the historic facility has given its community a sense of belonging and pride. The SAW renovation allows the facility to continue that tradition by creating an inviting and modern space that celebrates the college's rich athletic history while supporting its future. 

"The best part of the new facility is the flexibility we have to serve the entire campus community," said Athletics Director Jeff Meeker. "Our athletes are certainly excited about this, and everyone who walks into the door can’t believe how nice it is, how big it is, how many different spaces we have. It’s going to benefit not just Cornell athletics but the entire campus."   

Facts And Figures

Delivery Methods

Design-Build, EPC

Mitigating challenges of construction on a fully functional campus:  

Campus life is bustling at Cornell College! The use of a distinctive "One Course at a Time" curriculum, in which students immerse themselves in just one academic course per three-and-a-half week block, is utilized. This was an important factor when scheduling building tie-ins and outages. In addition to the block system, we needed to coordinate around sports schedules, including practice, season games, and potential post-season schedules. These factors drove our project schedule and made it necessary to be nimble and react quickly when Cornell's operations could potentially impact the schedule.   

Mortenson and Kahler Slater worked closely with Cornell to put together a schedule that allowed students and athletes to utilize the existing gym, locker room, and weight room while construction was in progress. To achieve this, we scheduled these areas to be completed in the last four months of the project timeline, allowing us to finish all other renovations and have the new area open and functioning. The new complex was opened to students and faculty in August 2022, before the start of the Fall semester. 

It has been extremely refreshing to work with Mortenson, a company that is dedicated to a “team” approach that assists the customer, developer, architect, and other consultants in making the construction process efficient and economical, and which takes special care to ensure that the finished product meets and exceeds all respective expectations.

The Team