Other Names - Health & Physical Education, Preston Center
Built - 1990-1992
Dedication - Aug. 23, 1992
Cost of Construction - $12 million
Size - 112,000 square feet
Architect - Rick Coltharp
Namesake - Raymond Bart Preston (1920-2007) was born in Johnson County, KY on August 25th, 1920. He attended Alice B. Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Knott County, KY and University of Tennessee before graduating from WKU (then-Western State Teachers College) in 1940 with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. He served as a Lt. General Grade in the Pacific Theater of WWII and briefly worked for the General Chemical Company. After the war, in 1947, Preston co-founded PB&S Chemical Company on North Adams St. in Bowling Green, but was called back into service for the Korean War in 1951.
Discharged in 1953, Preston went back to Henderson to help PB&S become the 10th largest chemical distributor in the U.S. by 1989, when he sold it to Brenntag. Concurrently, he was serving as chairman of Ohio Valley Bank, owning a majority stock in 1987. He also owned some small businesses around Henderson and Palmyra, Indiana. Preston was very active and prolific in community organizations, including the WKU's Board of Regents, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Henderson Air Board (26 years), Henderson Community College, and Louisville Orchestra Board. In 1990, Preston formed the Raymond B. Preston Family Foundation, which donated more than $6 million to communities in Henderson and Western Kentucky regions, primarily.
That same year, the organization donated at least $800,000 to the construction of the WKU activities center, which in turn was named in his honor. Raymond Bart Preston died on August 17th, 2007, a week before his 87th birthday.
History - The idea for an activities center was floating around WKU for a while when Raymond Preston met with President Thomas Meredith. In actuality, WKU had the authorization to build one, but lacked the financial resources to do so. After the 1988 Board of Regents approved the building, WKU quietly began raising the finances.
When details came out for the health center in the fall of 1989, It would include a "multipurpose gymnasium with an elevated track around the perimeter," 10 handball/racquetball courts, a weight room and a swimming pool. Groundbreaking was expected to begin in the summer of the following year. In June 1990, Raymond Preston, founder, chief executive and president of PB&S Chemical Co., and Hattie Preston donated close to around $800,000, which pushed the amount raised for construction to $1.4 million. In return for his gratitude, the Board of Regents voted on June 27th to name the building after Preston.
In light of what was then "the largest donation to Western," new details about the building surfaced: the center would include nine racquet and six basketball courts, weight-lifting and aerobic dancing rooms, a 25 meter-swimming pool, and a 1/9-mile jogging track. President Meredith said that groundbreaking would begin on September 1990.
Despite being on track for opening in July 1992, budget cuts of over $2.36 million and a hiring freeze in Fall 1991 increased concern over a lack of money to hire enough staff members. A comprehensive solution for the problem at hand was not found until April 1992, when the Budget Committee recommended to increase student fees from $70 to $103 to help staff the Preston Center. Also, for the next six weeks, starting in April, the American Marketing Association printed a series of reviews of all the facilities in the Preston Center, ending with an ad of Preston's official premiere to the campus on August 24th, 1992.
On August 23rd, 1992, President Meredith and Regent Chairman Burns Mercer unveiled a plaque dedicated to Raymond Preston, a day before the premiere to the public.
In 2010, a 14,000 square ft. Fitness Center was added to the recently renovated Preston Center.
2008-2010 - Hastings & Chivetta Architects, $642,000 renovation and expansion, weight room, aerobics studio and fitness rooms. Added 14,000 square feet.
College Heights Herald
Park City Daily News:
Advertisements 8/23/1992, 10/25/1992
"Bank Firm Donates $100,000 to WKU," 3/14/1990
Birks, Jackie. "Western Employees Take Look at Health," 4/5/1993
"Construction at WKU Brings New Vitality," editorial, 10/12/1990
Donnell, Evans. "The Preston Center is State-of-the-Art Facility," 8/21/1992
Dudley, Jason. "Waterbabies," 11/7/2003
Elliott, Susan. Photograph, 6/9/1991
Garrett, Angela. "Western Project Is Behind Schedule, But Center Will Be Ready in Fall ’92," 11/24/1991.
Gibbs, Jerry. "Letter to the Editor," 12/5/1991
"Groundbreaking at WKU is Friday," 9/26/1990
Haney, Norm. "Making a Splash with the Kids," 4/11/2004
"Health, Wellness and the YMCA," 10/25/1992
Imel, Joe. Photograph 8/21/1992.
Jackson, Lisa. "WKU Gets $100,000 for Center," 3/13/1990
Lewis, Clinton. Photograph 3/30/2003
"Portion of Center Street to Reopen," 11/6/1990
"Regents Avenue Will Be Closed Oct. 8," 10/4/1990
Riley, Jason. "They’ve Got (Video) game," 12/7/1999
"Section of Center Street to be Closed," 5/20/1991
Sisco, Scott. "Healthy Education," 1/15/2003
"WKU Offers Poker Walk for Fitness," 9/12/2002
"WKU Teams Walking the Distance to Orlando," 2/9/2003
Tackett, Scott. Photograph 10/15/1990
"Underground Lines Slow Work on Western’s Preston Center," 12/11/1990
"Western Begins Work on $10 Million Center," 9/30/1990
"Western Kentucky University’s Wellness Fair," 11/1/1992
White, Brian. "Western Plans Expansion at Preston Center," 7/31/2006
"WKU Regents Get a Sneak Preview," 10/22/1989
"WKU Swim Team Offers Good Program," editorial, 4/14/2004
"WKU Regents Get Preview of Health Center," 10/21/1989
Researched and revised by Sean Feole, Spring 2018
Western Kentucky University