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Students to vote on Rec Center expansion

By Anthony D. Ávila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
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Just before hanging up their hats and exiting the door, this year's ASUA Senate left a $35 million issue on the table for the next senate class to deal with in the fall.

At its final meeting of the year, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate approved a referendum for students to vote next year on an expansion of the Student Recreation Center, to be completed in 2009.

The expansion includes an addition of 30,000 square feet of weight-room space and would cost students $35 million with an additional $42-per-semester fee.

New facilities in the proposal include a two-story climbing wall opposite the weight room, a recreational pool, sand volleyball courts, an outdoor basketball court, a waiting lounge and an outside barbecue area, said Juliette Moore, director of the Rec Center.

ASUA senators heavily debated the proposal for the expansion, which students would not begin payment for until its completion, in the nearly two-hour meeting. The vote for the student referendum passed 6-4.

Erin Hertzog, who was sworn in last week as ASUA executive vice president, said she sat on the recreation advisory committee this past year as a senator and will continue to be involved in the process next year.

But Hertzog said she wants to leave the issue in the senate's hands.

"I just want there to be a non-biased election and a big voter turnout," Hertzog said. "People have been begging to have a voice in this issue for so long that I hope they come out to vote."

The job of next year's senate is going to be educating students about what and when they would have to pay and how exactly the money would benefit them, Hertzog said.

Moore said she wants students to be as informed as possible.

"I'm trying to be as up front as I can," Moore said. "We want to make sure that this is what the students want."

If the proposal passes, the Rec Center, which is currently 120,000 square feet, would increase to more than 200,000 square feet.

The increase includes 93,000 square feet of new construction and 18,000 square feet for renovating the existing building, all to be completed by 2009. The figure of 116,000 square feet reported previously includes both the new construction and the renovation.

Because the plan is not an official university project, all the figures and drawings are subject to change based on the recommendations of the administration and whoever is hired as the architect. However, Moore said she would personally ensure the overall budget does not exceed $35 million.

"We're going to stick with the price we agreed to, even if it means reducing the size or space of the expansion," Moore said.

Moore, who has been involved in campus recreation for 25 years, said the idea for expansion was planned before she became director eight years ago. The proposal is part of the Capital Development Plan, a part of the UA's annually-approved Capital Improvement Plan.

David Duffy, director of campus and facilities planning, said the proposal could be approved in August as a first-year or priority project, but it will need CDP approval by the Arizona Board of Regents before it becomes an official project and an architect can be hired.

Moore said the entire process will "absolutely" involve input from students, and if the students vote against it, the committee will "regroup and make the plan better for students."

JOSH FIELDS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
The UA Student Recreation Center, located at East Sixth Street and North Highland Avenue, could increase in size by 66 percent if plans for expansion pass a student vote set for next semester.

Operational costs

An expansion would require more operational costs, but Moore said they would have two options to handle that problem in the future.

The department could either charge more for activities and for special use of the facility or increase the $3 refundable fee that currently pays for the operational costs.

However, Moore said increasing the refundable fee would be the most likely because charging more for

programs would make use of the facility unaffordable to students.

The current operational budget is $1.4 million, but 60 percent of that pays for the 345 student-workers hired annually to run the facility, Moore said.

"Most of it goes straight back into students' pockets," Moore said.

Moore said they do not plan on adding onto the 15 full-time employees even if the building expanded. Rather, the department would hire more lifeguards for the pool and employ more student workers.

"Since we want to keep it safe, we want enough people to supervise all the areas," Moore said.

The $35 million also includes funds to cover parking expenses. The new facility would take away more than 100 parking spaces, but Moore said the university plans to build a new parking garage on the other side of the Circle K, 1610 E. Sixth St.

Cindy Telles, a student-worker at the Rec Center since February, said she has doubts about installing a fee for new facilities.

"It's a good idea (to expand) at some point, but I don't know if now is a good time," said Telles, an undeclared freshman. "Honestly, I think they're getting over their heads."

Telles said she thinks it is good, however, that students will get to decide through a vote because each student has a different concern.

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