February 25, 2002 Vol. VI, No. 11

Artist's rendering shows the university's new Adaptive Aquatic Therapy Center.

New Aquatic Therapy Center Construction Begins

Abbott and Linda Brown Western Center for Adaptive Aquatic Therapy to be Completed During 2002

Cal State Northridge has begun construction of its much anticipated $4.5 million aquatic therapy center, a project that will greatly expand the university's already internationally recognized program providing therapeutic exercise for people with physical disabilities.

Construction crews began work on the 18,400-square-foot project adjoining the Kinesiology Building at the beginning of the year. Kinesiology professor Sam Britten, who heads the university's therapy program, said its new aquatic facility will be the only university-based center of its kind in the nation, giving Northridge a special role.

"We will be unique. I know of no other university that has such a comprehensive indoor aquatic facility of this size dedicated to helping those with disabilities," said Britten. It has been the professor's life dream to expand Northridge's program with an aquatic component, and thereby have professionally trained CSUN graduates expand the entire aquatic therapy field.

The new facility, due to be completed by the end of 2002, will be named the Abbott and Linda Brown Western Center for Adaptive Aquatic Therapy. The Browns have contributed lead funding of $2 million toward the project, including an original $1.5 million in February 2000 that was CSUN's largest single alumni gift.

Linda Brown, who earned a bachelor's degree from Northridge, took a special interest in Britten's pioneering work at the university's Center of Achievement for the Physically Disabled (CAPD). For decades, Britten and the 300-325 Northridge students each year who train under him have helped thousands of people with physical disabilities achieve greater independence and a more productive lifestyle.

Northridge's center aids more than 400 clients each year with chronic disabilities, often those who have been told that hospitals and other providers can help them no further. With the addition of the aquatic therapy facility, Britten said the center should be able to accommodate its current 200-person waiting list and double its client base.

The CAPD works with people who have suffered strokes or spinal cord injuries, those with severe arthritis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other disabilities caused by injury or disease. All clients receive a personalized exercise program that is designed to help them achieve their goals for increased fitness and independence.

The new aquatic therapy component will offer those with disabilities a precious gift-the freedom of movement in exercise and therapy with little or no pain. The buoyancy of water provides an ideal environment for the body to function without the added stress of gravity.

Inside, the aquatic facility-in addition to expansion space for the current operation-will have four therapy pools to aid people with different types of disabilities. Each will be accessible through ramps, stairs or lifts:

Outside, the aquatic facility will have a half-circle vehicle drop-off area near its entrance on Lindley Avenue south of Plummer Street, said Bill Fairchild, a university facilities project manager. The new facility also will have a mostly white stucco exterior with white ceramic tile highlights to match the adjoining Kinesiology Building.

Britten, a Northridge faculty member since 1959 who is nearing retirement, said he hopes the aquatic therapy center will begin operation in spring 2003, depending on the pace of construction. "I have one more year to work on the campus. I want to see this thing through to completion," he said.

Britten thanked the Browns and U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, who helped earmark nearly $1 million in federal funds for the project, for making it a reality. He also thanked Northridge President Jolene Koester for "making a miracle occur." Meanwhile, the university is continuing to seek additional fundraising support for the project.

"We're getting calls already about the aquatic therapy program," Britten said. "The word is spreading. There's a lot of interest in what we're doing. Bringing an aquatic therapy program to the university is something I've always wanted to do. It will not only make a unique contribution to our community, but also serve as a training model for the country."

Construction of the new center is underway and due for completion by late 2002.

@csun | February 25, 2002 issue
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