Recreation sports pushes for growth

Than Tibbetts

Recreational sports officials told the University’s Board of Regents about the benefits of recreational sports on campus at a regents meeting in March.

Now, the officials are working to collect data on how students use recreational facilities at the University.

Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs, said University budget-makers requested more information about students’ demand for recreational services.

Consultants will survey a sample of students next week to gain insight into use of the recreational sports facilities.

Jim Turman, assistant vice provost for student affairs and director of the department of recreational sports, said the University has hired consultants to conduct focus groups, analyze recreational sports facilities and suggest how to better serve students through recreational sports.

Turman said there are several ways to improve access to University recreational facilities. He said the Minneapolis facility could be expanded between the current building and the Scholars Walk.

A satellite facility on the West Bank has also been discussed, he said.

Rinehart said the data will also be used to help plan the proposed University Park development north of Mariucci and Ridder arenas.

The project would be a major addition to recreational facilities on campus and would offer students a variety of activities, including some not available anywhere else at the University.

“If we can also build a facility on the West Bank down the road, it would relieve some pressure on the East Bank facility,” he said. “And I think we’d get more people involved over there.”

At the March meeting, Turman presented a report to the board that showed first-year students were more likely to remain at the University if they participated in recreational sports.

According to the data, in 2002, first-year students who attended the recreation center between 20 and 39 times a school year had a 91.4 percent first-year retention rate, but first-year students who never attended the center had an 82.1 percent.

The report also states use of recreational sports benefits students in other ways, including building a sense of community, improving social life at college and enhancing students’ learning experiences.

Rinehart said University officials have also had an idea to form an exercise and wellness center.

In addition, Turman said, they would look to gear more facilities toward the University faculty and staff.

The latest data shows two-thirds of the adult population is overweight or obese, he said. He also cited a Boynton Health Service survey that shows the population of overweight students is getting into the 20 percent range.

“We need to create an environment where (students) feel comfortable if they have some health issues, weight issues or self-image issues,” Turman said. “Not to create the Taj Mahal but having more spaces for them to get more personalized attention and change their lifestyles.”