U plans to expand rec center

In comparison to other Big Ten schools, the University comes up short in facilities for student use.

Amber Kispert

Helping to ease congestion of the University Recreation Center has become a priority for some University administrators.

According to the most recent usage statistics from the Department of Recreational Sports, 72 percent of all students use the recreation facilities on campus – 25 percent of whom use the facilities several times a week.

During last Tuesday’s Minnesota Student Association forum meeting, University director of recreational sports Jim Turman outlined plans to expand and improve the facilities.

The proposed expansion will be located south of the University Recreation Center and north of Scholar’s Walk. The tentative plan is to add about 30,000 square feet of space.

“We don’t quite know what the size of that facility will be,” Turman said. “It’s a small footprint, it’s a small site; and certainly it is not going to be enough to serve the whole campus community.”

The University also plans to add a 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot satellite facility on the West Bank campus, Turman said.

Included in the expansion will be a specially designed health and wellness area designed specifically for faculty and staff.

“It’s a different environment working out with all the students, and it’s intimidating,” Turman said. “The goal is to have employees incorporate physical activity into their lifestyles, so they feel comfortable going out into the larger population.”

Currently, the University has about 400,000 square feet of indoor space to serve its 50,402 students. This includes the University Recreation Center, the University Aquatic Center, the St. Paul Gymnasium, Cooke Hall and the University Fieldhouse.

That falls about 51,000 square feet short of the recommended amount of exercise and wellness space for a campus of this size, Turman said.

“We certainly do not have enough fitness space; we do not have enough gymnasium space; we do not have enough group exercise space,” he said.

In comparison with other universities of similar size, Minnesota has significantly less space.

With a total of 725,000 square feet of indoor space for its 59,091 students to use, Ohio State University is one of the frontrunners for indoor space, Turman said – a number boosted this past year when it built a new 595,000-square-foot recreation facility.

The University of Wisconsin has 100,000 square feet more indoor space and has only 41,466 students, less than Minnesota’s 50,000-plus.

Currently, Madison is working on its master plan for a proposed 180,000-square-foot facility, Dale Carruthers, director for Recreational Sports for Madison, said.

Overcrowding of facilities is the top barrier to students’ involvement at the recreation facilities, Turman said.

University nutritional science sophomore Anna Holzbauer usually goes to the recreation center five days a week.

“The machines are pretty good and they keep it up very well so that’s nice,” she said. “But, I’m here at a couple different times and it’s usually packed.”

Cody Mikl, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly representative to the Recreational Sports Advisory Board, said he agrees overcrowding and lack of space are concerns for students.

“The No. 1 weakness of our recreational facilities is that they are small,” he said. “You quickly figure out that it’s not worth your time to come because your workout will take three hours.”

The Department of Recreational Sports also wants to address the issue of outdoor field space as well, Turman said.

“There is a much greater demand for outdoor field space than is being satisfied on this campus,” Mikl said.

Turman said he hopes to see the project go into predesign this spring, but he doesn’t anticipate anything happening before 2010.

“One of the things we will never do is build enough facilities for prime time,” he said. “But we need to have enough out there that people can make other choices during the day.”