Crunch time near for new rec center project

A story has circulated around campus that a student complained to a Peter Stott Center staff member that there is no opportunity at the center for student recreation. The staffer supposedly answered, “Why are you complaining? Pretty soon you’ll have your own recreation building.”

The staff member’s response was somewhat premature. Assuming a new student-owned rec building is approved and built, it won’t open overnight. The current estimated opening date is fall 2007, according to Christy Harper, a junior in political science and long-time leader in the drive for a student rec building.

However, the complaining student (if the story is authentic) was not far off the mark. The Stott Center contains the only dance area on the entire campus, one room. It is booked all day every day and even the fencing people have to cut and thrust in the room’s confines. Badminton is played in squash courts. Table tennis and crew practice in hallways. Volleyball and soccer are played in racquetball courts.

Crunch time looms soon for students to approve or disapprove construction of a new rec building designed for all students. Will students vote approval of a mandatory recreation fee to use their own comprehensive facility?

That question hangs in the air as general student elections approach in late March. Harper is only one person exerting herself on behalf of the new facility. Alex Acetta, coordinator of campus recreation and adviser to student recreation, is investing a multitude of hours pulling the project together.

A volunteer student marketing committee is fully formed and organizing a campaign. It aims to communicate to students the benefits of a building all their own. Such a building would be divorced from the athletic department and devoted exclusively to student, faculty and staff recreation.

In the current conception of the design, the building will also contain five floors of student housing. However, these will be underwritten by the administration, not funded by students.

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The marketing committee’s first job will be to collect enough student signatures to get the issue on the March election ballot.

“The committee plans to get a lot more than the number required,” Harper said. Then, at the March election, the committee hopes to get a much larger total of approval votes than a student body election normally pulls.

Harper said this would pose a totally different type of vote than the referendum last year on OSPIRG. Explaining the difference between the OSPIRG referendum case and the rec center initiative project, Harper said, “You couldn’t do a referendum on the allocation of existing student fee money (as was the case with OSPIRG). You are allowed to do this initiative for an entirely different student fee. The rec center creates a new separate fee.”


A favorable outcome at the election would not be binding but would serve as an advisory to the chancellor of higher education. From there it would be a case of running it through the usual construction approval process.

It has been almost a year since a comprehensive architectural study was introduced which included three alternatives, with the then hope that it could open in 2006. Those alternatives have now sifted down to one solid choice, a full block at Southwest Market street between 11th and 12th avenues next to West hall.

A concise and currently updated summary of the project, including costs and answers to frequently asked questions, appears online at The website includes artists’ color conceptions of how various interior areas might appear.

A frequently asked question is “How much will each student have to pay in fees if the center is opened?”

A study reviewed by Acetta shows that the facility and programs will cost $30 million and annual operations $1.3 million.

“We now know when the fee will start and what it will be,” Harper said.

The Student Recreation Fee would increase the overall fees paid by each student, each quarter, by no more than $41, considering that each student currently pays $11 a quarter recreation fee as part of student fees.

The increased fee would begin before construction is completed. In fall 2005 the maximum fee would be $24 per quarter. In summer 2006 it would increase to $30 a quarter. In summer 2007 – just in advance of the projected fall 2007 opening — it would be $52 a quarter and continue at that rate. In summer 2007 the money that currently funds student recreation would be subtracted from the overall student fee.

For the fee, every student will have access to the center during all open hours, every day of the week for a total week of 112 hours. There will also be a program for faculty and staff.

Once the project is approved, a complete new design phase will begin. Open presentations will be invited and the project will not necessarily be awarded to Yost, Grube, Hall, the architectural firm that configured the present tentative concept.

An amenities statement calls for a state of the art recreational facility for intramural, club sport, aquatic, fitness and outdoor programs. Possible features might include student group offices, meeting space, a three-court gymnasium, a three lane running track, a two-court synthetic floor gym for floor hockey and indoor soccer, a large fitness facility, an aquatic complex including lap and leisure pool plus spa, and new locker rooms. Other amenities might include a retail area, rock climbing wall, lounge, gear rental and possible bike maintenance space.

Both Harper and Acetta emphasized that no general fund money will be used for the project. It will come through student building fee provisions and paid off through bonds.

Harper said the project was helped materially by Jay Kenton, vice president for finance and administration. If the design would also add student housing – to be financed separately by the administration – the university would give the land to the rec center.

Both Harper and Acetta emphasized the center will be student-controlled, with a student-run advisory board under student affairs. The center will provide at least 40 new student jobs. The retail space also might provide an opportunity for a student-run business.

“A lot of the money will be going back to the students,” Acetta predicted.

He said the need for a new rec building has long been known.

“The current building was built in 1965 when PSU had 8,000 students. We now have over 23,000,” he said. The Stott Center is both overcrowded and overbooked, with student recreation a third priority user, behind athletics and PE classes.

He recalled that in 1987 a president’s task force reported the Stott Center did not meet the needs of the students at that time. When the original proposal was first presented last May, one student, Chase Lo Greco, said he feared the student population is growing so rapidly that the new facility might be inadequate as soon as it opened. PSU President Daniel Bernstine has set a goal of 35,000 students by 2012.

Last week, Harper conceded Lo Greco’s possible concern, but, she said, “We have maximized our potential.”

Acetta summarized the goal which the rec center hopes to realize.

“How do we make healthy lifestyles affordable and accessible for everybody at Portland State?”