U plans expanded athletics facilities

The proposal includes new fields, renovations to existing buildings and a West Bank recreation center.

Branden Peterson

The University Aquatic Center, the recreation center and other campus recreational facilities and fields are far from unused – in fact, they are used too much, recreational sports officials said.

The fact that 20,000 students and faculty used the approximately 12,000-square-foot recreation center last year makes a strong argument that the recreation center is overused, said Jim Turman, assistant vice president for the recreational sports department.

So to better serve students, faculty and staff, the department now wants to expand.

Officials plan to construct fields and courts, renovate and expand existing facilities and possibly add a 30,000-square-foot satellite recreation center to the West Bank campus.

The office will discuss the need for more facilities with the regents in February. Yet even with regents’ support, Turman said, any of the projects will likely be at least a couple years away.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, said the University administration is aware of concerns regarding needs for improvements in recreational sports on campus.

“There’s definitely a real documented issue here,” he said, adding that University President Bob Bruininks is aware of the department’s needs.

Timing is an issue because of several athletics projects occurring at the same time, Pfutzenreuter said.

University officials and the recreational sports department plan to build more fields and facilities on property three companies own north of Fifth Street Southeast.

The University has earned rights to acquire the land through “eminent domain” over the three properties on or near Fifth Street Southeast and north of Mariucci Arena, said Sue Weinberg, a land-acquisition coordinator in the real estate office.

The University made three proposals estimated at $1.2 million for the properties but was turned down. Now, court proceedings that will determine a fair price for the properties are scheduled for February, April and May, Weinberg said.

University planners have considered using some of the acquired land for new athletics fields and perhaps a new baseball stadium to replace Siebert Field.

The land could also be used for new parking spaces if construction on a new stadium swallows hundreds of parking spots from the Huron Boulevard Parking Complex, he said.

If parking takes over the newly acquired property, possible plans to build a new baseball stadium or recreational facilities on the site might be placed on hold as well, Pfutzenreuter said.

West Bank rec center

The way West Bank residents describe going to the recreation center, simply getting to the elliptical machines or the pool is a workout.

Despite the trek that just got harder with last weekend’s snowfall, Dave Ewart, a first-year marketing and English student, said he works out about five times per week.

“It’s a hike to say the least,” Ewart said. “If they got something over here I’d be pumped.”

Several other students agreed that providing an exercise facility on the West Bank would encourage more people there to exercise. Some even said they would support a hike in

student fees to help complete the projects.

“A lot of people here don’t go because it’s so far,” said first-year international business student Arianne Wotzka, who lives in Middlebrook Hall.

Wotzka said many students get frustrated because after arriving at the recreation center they have to wait to use some equipment.

Data the athletics department gathered this year ranks the University below several other universities with similar or slightly smaller enrollments in respect to recreational sports facilities, Turman said.