Revitalized Rec Center meets students’ needs

Brian Frederick

Until March 1993, Skeeter Burroughs’ only form of exercise was marching band.
Then, five years ago this month, the University spent more than $38 million on the Recreation Center. For Burroughs, that meant dropping the clarinet in favor of a racquetball racquet.
And construction isn’t done yet. In fall 1998, students, faculty and staff members will be able to use the newly expanded St. Paul Gymnasium.
James Turman, director of recreational sports, said the Rec Center has gone “beyond people’s imagination.”
“Students choose what school to attend for several reasons: One is academic, and two is location, and most frequently they ask if they (the school) have recreation facilities,” Turman said.
Center administrators said the University’s old athletic facilities were slanted toward men.
“All the sports facilities were built by men’s athletics, and for men’s athletics,” Turman said.
“The old facilities did not attract women, because (the facilities) were not in good condition,” said Turman, adding that since the Rec Center opened “the biggest impact is on female participation.”
However, Burroughs, who is an employee with the Community Health Division of the Medical School, said in the past there was not much athletic equipment for any student to use. They had to wait until after the intercollegiate and intramural sports were finished before they could work out at Cooke Hall.
This meant that students would either have to work out during dinner time or on the weekend.
Now Burroughs is able to use one of 16 racquetball courts, two gymnasiums, two fitness centers and five squash courts available at the Minneapolis center.
Burroughs, who uses the fitness center three to five times per week, is pleased with the facility’s convenience and price: $50 per quarter for faculty members. He is able to have the University automatically withdraw the fees from his biweekly paycheck.
Turman said the goal of the department was “to build a facility that would attract the broadest participation possible.”
However, some students are turned off by the popularity of the Rec Center.
“I do not like using the Rec Center because it is overcrowded at times,” said College of Natural Resources senior Nicole Richter.
Rec Center officials said the hours from about 4 to 8 p.m. are often the most crowded.
College of Liberal Arts junior Ben Sorenson said he uses the facility as often as possible but that he has a problem finding equipment to use in the evening.
The center’s policy of charging for locker rental — $20 per quarter for students and $25 for faculty members and employees — is also inconvenient for some patrons.
CLA senior Minh Hong said the $20 cost seems too high for his locker.
Despite the wrinkles the center has experienced with some of its policies, it continues to draw financial support from the Legislature.
Between 1955 and 1987, 17 studies were done by state auditors about the athletic facilities on campus; all said there was a need for more facilities.
In 1987, legislators approved funding for the new athletic facilities. They split the proposal into two phases.
The first phase, which was completed in 1990, was the building of a new Aquatic Center for the University. The cost was $17.7 million, to be paid between the state, students and fund raising done by the Department of Recreational Sports.
That same year, the sports department went back to the Legislature to ask for the money for the second phase.
However, legislators decided to split that phase into two different phases, with the final phase consisting of renovating the St. Paul Gym, which is scheduled to end next fall.
Kim Calvert, St. Paul Gym program manager, said these improvements will be able to complement the Rec Center. The expansion will include an eight-lane shallow water pool, and a 900-square-foot rock-climbing wall.