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story.lead_photo.caption This artist's rendition shows one view of the planned 38,000-square-foot recreation and wellness center at A&M-Texarkana. The building will feature a basketball court, fitness center, classrooms, locker rooms, offices and a training room for student athletes.

Services on the 375-acre campus of Texas A&M University-Texarkana are expanding with two new buildings to bring new educational and recreational opportunities to East Texas.

State and area lawmakers, academic administration and city leaders attended a June groundbreaking for the 58,000-square-foot academic and student success building and the 38,000 square-foot recreation and wellness center.

During that ceremony, Texas Rep. Gary VanDeaver, who was instrumental in the school receiving state funding for the facilities, said A&M-Texarkana was investing in the future of Texarkana through education.

"These buildings represent a brighter future for Texarkana and for the state of Texas because these buildings represent our commitment to improving educational opportunities for Texans," VanDeaver said. "We cannot regulate our way to a better Texas. We will not legislate our way to a better Texas. My friends, our best hope is to educate our way to a better Texas."

The $32 million for the academic and student success building was made possible in 2015 during the 84th Texas Legislative Session. That space will house business programs, the recently expanded nursing program, the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program, and include classrooms, laboratories with space for simulations, and student support services. It is designed to accommodate enrollment growth, specifically in the expanding science and health disciplines, which require extensive laboratory space.

The project's architects and design team meet regularly to conceptualize plans for the building, with a final plan scheduled for presentation to the A&M University System Board of Regents in April 2017. Pending approval, construction is expected to begin soon after, with an anticipated occupancy date of Spring 2019.

A&M Texarkana's new kinesiology program will be housed in an $11 million recreation and wellness center, which will feature a basketball and volleyball court for recreational and intercollegiate sports. A fitness center also is included, along with classrooms, locker rooms, offices and a training room for student athletes.

"With a game room and lounge space, this will be a wonderful building for our students to engage with one another in what I like to think of as our campus living room," said Emily Cutrer, president of A&M-Texarkana. "Studies show that student engagement activities, such as those that will be offered at this building, nurture a sense of community and provide a balance of challenge and support to balance students' intellectual and personal development."

It is being funded through a public-private partnership with Eagle Lake Development of Texarkana, which will begin construction this fall. It is expected to take a year to complete, with an anticipated occupancy date of fall 2017, depending on weather.

Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, said the state was invested in A&M-Texarkana's growth and success, and called it an "emerging institution," adding that ground was being broken on something that is much more than an institution.

"It's a place where students will grow, where they will discover gifts, talents and interests that they probably never knew they even had," Straus said. "There's no doubt that this growing university is on the rise, and today we begin a promising new chapter in your history. On behalf of the entire Texas House of Representatives, I want you know that we appreciate what is happening here now and in the future. I want to thank you all for the very, very real contribution you are making to the state of Texas."

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