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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

March 14, 2008

Recreation project moves forward

by Erin Rosacker

A $52.8 million renovation and construction project moved another step forward March 12. Members of the Special Student Fee and Tuition Committee -- in a unanimous consensus -- will make a recommendation to President Gregory Geoffroy to proceed with the planning and programming phase of the proposed expanded recreation facilities. The committee has representatives from both the administration and the student body.

If Geoffroy agrees, it will move to the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance and chair of the fee committee, said timing is tight to get the issue before the regents while students still are in school. That leaves only the board's April 30-May 1 meeting.

"We hope to get the materials to the president next week so he can review them and make a decision before the regents' March 26 docket deadline," Madden said.

How we got here

After an information campaign that included CyRide ads, Web sites and open forums, the students approved the project. That's an important factor, as it would be fully funded by student fees.

Prior to the online student vote Feb. 25-27, the Government of the Student Body endorsed the recreation plan (17-5-1) on Feb. 13. However, the seven-member editorial board of the Iowa State Daily opposed the plan in a Feb. 22 column, and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate failed to lend its support in a March 3 vote (20-25).

Facebook groups argued both sides of the issue and the Daily posted blog entries on the topic. Ultimately, 52.1 percent of the 6,466 students who took part in the online vote said yes -- a difference of just 263 votes.

"We're all very pleased with the number of students who voted and the comments that we received, and we're really looking forward to continuing to have dialogues with the students," said Mike Harvey, director of recreation services. "I'm sympathetic to the closeness of the vote, and the impact to the students. We try to look at it as not only an investment into their own future, but the future of other students."

Speculating on the future

If all the approval steps are granted, Harvey said he expects a lot of committee work, along with additional focus groups and open forums. Already, student leaders are combing through feedback students submitted during the voting process.

"I'm excited about the students' involvement to this point and really making it a project about them," Harvey said. "But I'm so much more excited about the potential of their involvement as we move forward."

Some of that committee work and input will go into selecting an architect. Then, Harvey said, they will use the needs assessment and feasibility study to work with the architect on a project, addressing student comments and concerns.

The first part of the project will provide air conditioning in the Lied Recreation Athletic Facility. Ideally, it would be installed after the 2009 Iowa Special Olympics summer games. That's also when students will see the new fee show up on their U-bills. A $20 student fee ($10 in the summer) will be collected each semester until the fall of 2011, when Harvey said the renovation and addition should be "substantially" complete. Then the fee jumps to $107 per semester.

Harvey hopes to engage students during the entire process. Design and sustainability issues will be part of the discussion.

"This is when it really should draw the students in," he said. "Are we doing sustainable, 'green' things? Are we putting in the right things that are usable and practical to them, in the sizes that are going to be appropriate? Are we doing it in a way that we can maintain it for the future?"

Faculty and staff access

Although it would be a student-funded project, the Professional and Scientific Council passed a motion to request continued free access to the west side recreation facilities.

Madden said students will not be asked to pay for the cost of faculty and staff to use the facilities. However, he said the university's benefits committee is looking at developing a wellness program as part of the benefits package -- possibly with the choice of using campus or community facilities.

"One of the models is a program that would permit -- just as we do with some of the benefit choices -- people to make a choice and the benefit plan would pay some or all of the cost. The rationale is that improvement in health would offset the cost of the access to the facilities with lower medical expenses over time," Madden said.


Plans for a $52.8 million recreation project earned approval from the student fee committee, which will make a recommendation to the president to move forward and put the question in front of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.