Work is underway on a $50 million sports medicine center at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest in Waco that will give athletes and those suffering from joint ailments and injuries more resources starting in December 2019.
Dozens attended a sun-splashed ceremony Thursday where community and hospital leaders discussed their vision for the four-story, 106,000-square-foot Baylor Scott & White Sports and Orthopedic Center. Construction already has started adjacent to the hospital at Interstate 35 and State Highway 6, as the groan and rumble of earthmoving equipment announced.
Baylor Scott & White will underwrite the building’s cost, while a $6 million capital campaign pursues donations for specialized equipment. Commitments to date have reached $2.8 million, said Becky Lindsey, a member of the fundraising group who spoke during Thursday’s festivities.
The facility will place under one roof technologies to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate patients suffering pain in their hand, wrist, foot, elbow, ankle and spine, according to a press release from Baylor Scott & White Health. Glenn Robinson, president of Scott & White’s Waco region, said the facility will “seek to prevent injuries before they occur,” but when they do strike, “we stand ready to treat patients with a team approach to each individual’s unique injury.”
About 50 support staffers and 10 physicians will occupy the new facility, to be anchored by Baylor Scott & White Southwest Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics, now housed elsewhere on the hospital campus. Those numbers likely will increase, said Matt Rohrer, vice president of clinic operations for Baylor Scott & White in Waco, speaking after the ceremony.
He said the 106,000-square-foot complex represents a doubling of space devoted to orthopedic care. The existing facility treats more than 3,000 patients monthly, including athletes from school districts around Central Texas who have suffered injuries, Rohrer said. It also sees patients who have suffered injuries, including falls, or who need joint replacement surgery.
“This definitely will give us the ability to grow,” Rohrer said.
Features will include physical rehabilitation areas inside and outside, including an exercise track, MRI and X-ray capabilities, a surgery center, and administrative offices, Southwest Sports Medicine founder Dr. Jon Ellis said after the program. Space also will accommodate athletes wanting to have their movements analyzed to improve strength, conditioning and performance “with a focus on safety,” he said.
Specialized equipment on the shopping list includes a Tesla 3.0 MRI, a Biodex machine, an anti-gravity treadmill and robotics.
“Robotics definitely are high on our wish list,” Ellis said.
The burgeoning technology improves precision in joint replacement procedures, he said. Robots do not actually perform surgery but are used by surgeons to make exacting calculations during the procedures.
Ellis said the new center reflects Scott & White’s commitment to its patients and the 70-plus high schools it has relationships with.
The new facility will provide opportunities to work with graduate students, including those at Baylor University, on research and development, he said.
“And, God willing, we want to recruit young specialists who want to practice here and raise a family in Waco,” Ellis said.
He said space the sports medicine facility will leave when the new $50 million complex is ready will provide more room for expansion.
“We have a lot of opportunities to explore, I can assure you,” he said.
Doctors at Southwest Sports Medicine serve as team physicians for Baylor University athletics in addition to seeing patients from area high schools. The facility welcomes referrals from other health centers and likely will see a greater number in the future, Ellis said. He also serves on the Big 12 Physicians Network, through which he often receives inquiries.
Discussions about creating a new sports medicine “center of excellence” have been ongoing for years. In November 2015, the city of Waco, Baylor University and Scott & White revealed plans for a land swap that would allow Baylor to build such a center at Interstate 35 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near McLane Stadium, where Waco cleared a former pesticide plant.
Plans announced at the time included a facility that would house Southwest Sports Medicine and a “human performance center,” with Scott & White reportedly involved in development.
That project was not mentioned at Thursday’s groundbreaking.
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said in an email response to questions that “there are no conversations or developments on the project.”
Robinson could not be reached for additional comment.