Chinook Student Center, Washington State University


Washington State University 

Four-year, rural, public
Enrollment: 19,249 full-time 
Location: Pullman, Washington 

Chinook Student Center 

Year Built: 2017
Size: 69,309 sq. ft.
Floors: 3
Annual Operating Budget: $3.5 million
Director: Jeff Elbracht
Student Staff: 145 part-time
Nonstudent staff: 9 full-time

You have to feel a little healthier just walking into Washington State’s Chinook Student Center. Actually, it may be before you walk in the door, as you note a lack of cars and the presence of a CougBikes bike share hub and a main bus transit stop. Coupled with its central campus locale, Chinook consciously wanted cars to seem dispensable. 

Chinook Student Center But it’s inside the three-story, nearly 70,000-square-foot rebuild of the campus’ old bookstore that the union experience expands to include whiteboard-walled meeting rooms, Fortnite gaming tournaments, casual dining, and sports viewing parties. The Chinook was purposefully designed to respond to student needs for not only more social space, but also health, wellness, and recreation. 

Chinook succeeds not just to the letter, but really from A to Z. Think aerobics to Zumba, with belly dancing, bodybuilding, and boxing; capoeira and CrossFit; kickboxing, pole training, taekwondo, spin, and yoga in between. Open about 120 hours each week and with professional staff on hand only as much as 50 of those, the facility is student-centric, from amenities to administration. 

“Students are fully responsible for the daily operations of the facility,” Director Jeff Elbracht said. “They provide general supervision, teach fitness classes, work in food service, and supervise the weight room.” 

Chinook Student Center Certified LEED Silver upon renovation, the building boasts 15 napping stations, music practice rooms, saunas, an event space, a covered outdoor deck, a restaurant and espresso bar, three lounge spaces, a gaming area, and meditation spaces with foot washing stations. There’s also plenty of social activities like free pizza nights, chili cookoffs by staff cooks, craft nights, billiards, and performances, but it’s the fitness components that up the heart rate. 

Those include personal trainers, comprehensive fitness assessments and body composition testing, workshops on everything from macronutrient intake to range of motion improvement, and unique takes on workout regimes, like a military-inspired boot camp, conditioning for rock climbers, and high-intensity interval training on indoor cycles. 

Undergraduates pay a $98 per semester fee. It’s a controlled access facility, so students not assessed the fee, faculty, staff, and alumni can all purchase memberships. There are small registration fees for fitness classes, but nearly all of them are offered for free at some point during the semester. 

“The Chinook offers a unique set of student services under one roof as a student is provided spaces for studying, eating, napping, and exercise all in a single location,” Elbracht said. “The combination of social and recreational amenities combined creates a unique student experience.” 

Chinook Student Center


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