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Construction work is well underway for the $51 million Erlanger East hospital expansion on Gunbarrel Road, but hospital leaders used a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday to recast the vision of the hospital as a "healthy lifestyle center."

"Erlanger East will transform into the region's first healthy lifestyle hospital, with emphasis on health, well-being and short lengths of stay," said Erlanger East CEO Phil Jackson.

The project will redevelop the hospital — best known for its labor and delivery services and outpatient care — into a full-service facility.

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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/22/15. Former UT football coach Phil Fulmer, right, helps his daughter Brittany Ennen make an impression of his 6-month old granddaughter Natalie Ennen's feet during a groundbreaking event for Erlanger East Hospital's new $50-million expansion that will include a new patient tower with additional beds, operating rooms and a cauterization suite. The hospital also plans to launch a mile long walking trail which they are calling a "pathway to better health".

The current build-out will include a patient tower with 58 new private rooms; four operating rooms; a cardiac catheterization lab newly approved by the state; and six additional postpartum beds in the labor and delivery unit.

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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/22/15. Construction pauses during a groundbreaking event for Erlanger East Hospital's new $50-million expansion that will include a new patient tower with additional beds, operating rooms and a cauterization suite. The hospital also plans to launch a mile long walking trail which they are calling a "pathway to better health".

Current plans call for the new tower to have an earth-toned, modern exterior — a departure from Erlanger's signature brick facade — and painted inside with spa-like hues, filled with windows and imitation wood.

As a part of the "healthy lifestyle center," plans also include a 1-mile walking trail to weave through the campus with a number of gardens, including a sculpture garden, a community garden, and an area for a "weekly farmers market."

The plans also detail "active recreational amenities" such as volleyball, a basketball court and a putting green. In addition to new food services, architects included space for cooking demonstrations.

The project, which is expected to be completed in 2016, is being funded through bond money that was part of a $70 million issuance last year.

Former University of Tennessee Vols coach Phil Fulmer was at the ceremony to support the hospital where his daughter, Brittany Ennen, recently gave birth to a little girl.

"Nothing in the athletic world compares to that moment," Fulmer said.

Besides the expansion at East, the hospital is also looking to build a new children's ambulatory center at its downtown facility, a part of what they hope will eventually be an major overhaul of that campus.

The hospital also reopened inpatient beds at its Erlanger North facility last week.

In 2013, Erlanger East added a 24/7 emergency room, which is expected to have 26,000 visits by the end of this fiscal year. It also started a breast cancer center and is planning to bring in an infusion center this year.

Jackson said the construction work at Erlanger is estimated to bring on 800 to 1,000 workers, with an economic impact of $35 million in construction costs.

Contact staff writer Kate Belz at kbelz@times freepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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