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Proposed Rec Center, playing fields depend on $30 student fee vote

February 14th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Rebecca Holliday

LOGAN—Utah State University is asking students to approve a big new fee to pay for a multimillion Aggie Recreation Center (ARC), which officials say will sharply improve resources for campus recreation. The proposed fee will initially be $30 per semester, rising to $75 per semester once the new ARC, which will include a new building and sports fields, opens in about four years.

Students will vote on the fee question this month.

The proposed ARC and its artificial turf Legacy Fields are multimillion-dollar projects aimed at improving the livability of the USU campus, according the project’s supporters. The new Rec Center would replace outdated and crowded facilities in the Nelson Field House, whose fitness center was created 10 years ago.

Kevin Kobe, director of campus recreation, told The Utah Statesman recently that expanded facilities are badly needed. “They’re crawling on each other over there,” Kobe said, referring to the Nelson Field House. “It’s tight. It’s dangerous, because you don’t have enough room for that many people.”

The proposed new ARC would include lounges, media rooms and locker rooms, an indoor track, climbing wall and weight room.

A student group, Students Against Academic Waste (SAAW), has formed, however, to oppose the project. Laura Anderson, president of the College Democrats, is one of the SAAW organizers. “We feel like all of that money and our student fees could go to something better, like perhaps giving tenure to a professor instead of a turf field,” Anderson told the Statesman.

See Statesman editorial: Our View: Better academics before recreation

The new Legacy Fields, constructed of artificial turf at a cost of $1.985 million, will include lighting for nighttime use and could be cleared of snow during winter. If students approve the $30 fee, construction would begin in March, with a projected August completion date. Half the cost of the project will come from the increased student fees, with the remainder funded by USU central administration.

The plan for the fields includes one collegiate regulation-size soccer field, two regulation-size flag football fields, two regulation softball fields, and a one-third of a mile jogging path, all illuminated by energy-efficient lighting.

Intramural director Scott Wamsley says the existing grass HPER fields cannot be used at night because they aren’t lighted, and intramural and club sports sometimes have to be rescheduled because of inclement weather or poor field conditions.

“In regard to grass fields, we don’t have enough for the programs that we run,” Wamsley said. “In the last year-and-a-half we have lost one complete field due to a building. We’ve only had use of the whole field space one time in the past four or five years.”

The new fields would enable students to use the space year round and at night, increasing the time during which events can be scheduled. The durable turf, also used in the LAUB and stadium fields, requires less maintenance than natural grass and is safer for participants, Wamsley said.

According to the USU Office of Analysis, Assessment and Accreditation (AAA), enrollment has risen by over 5,000 students from 2008 to 2011, which officials say has resulted in more intramural sports teams and greater demand for field space.

“There were 36 teams that could not play this fall 2011 due to lack of playing fields,” said James Morales, vice president for student services, one of the ARC’s primary supporters.

USU trails peer universities like Washington State University and University of Idaho in terms of student recreation facilities, ARC supporters say. The Nelson Field House was built in 1939, and the HPER building is now in its fourth decade of use.

“For an institution this size, we are 20 years behind,” Kobe says. “We should have 19 acres of fields dedicated to recreation play fields.”

ARC supporters also point out that there is no place on campus designated solely for student use—unlike the HPER and the Field House, the new facilities would not be used by Athletics or for academics.

Wamsley and Kobe say they remember a time when Taggart Student Center was a place where students could hang out, and included bowling alleys and other student activity options. Now much of the TSC is dedicated to offices and services.

The ARC would give students a place to socialize and relax. “The stronger the fabric between students, the more likely they are to push through to graduation and be successful,” Kobe said.

Jana Doggett, executive associate athletic director, says the proposed rec center would provide a better experience for students.

“The project provides a better campus presentation and overall opportunity for the USU student community to make the student campus life more well-rounded,” Doggett said.

TP

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