OUS approves $17 million rec center budget increase

    The Oregon University System approved a $17 million budget increase this week for the new recreation center scheduled to be built on the existing PCAT site. The budget was increased because space for the Graduate School of Social Work has been added to the plans and the rec center project was recently moved up the priority list of approved building projects for the 2007- 2009 biennium.

    ”It moved up in priority because, if [the city of Portland] are going to build light rail here they need to do the projects simultaneously,” said Di Sanders, OUS director of communications.

    The one-story PCAT building will be torn down and replaced by an eight-story building to house the new student recreation center and the Graduate School of Social Work. The projected budget for this project is $59 million, according to Robyn Pierce, the interim director of facilities and planning at PSU.

    Mark Gregory, associate vice president for strategic planning, partnerships and technology, said the additional cost of adding the School of Social Work to the site will not affect students because the School of Social Work is raising the money from a combination of state bonds, retail leases, donations and city support.

    Of the funding, $32 million will come from student fees, $7 million from bonds for retail, another $10 million from the state, and $10 million from donations, the city of Portland, and prepaid retail leases.

    The university is expecting to break ground for the building in July 2007, but that date is dependent on when the money comes in. “That date is really a moving target,” Gregory said. “It has a million variables.”

    The new eight-story building will include ground-floor retail space, five stories for the student recreation center, and three upper floors for the School of Social Work.

    The 50,000-square-foot site is “very underutilized,” Pierce said. Currently the land is worth $6.65 million, with the capacity for an 11-story building. Maintaining the facility is costly – it will cost $20,000 to air condition over the summer. Pierce said that PSU is “keeping it together with duct tape and super glue to keep it operating. Luckily we have some skilled technicians on staff.”

    There exists some controversy around the site, because a vote in 2004 to approve student funds for the student recreation center passed by 12 votes. With a final vote count of 900 to 912, many students were angry because so few students had decided upon the fate of millions of dollars in student fees.

    Construction on the site is expected to be completed by the summer of 2009.

    The School of Social Work is “a smaller school, but a critical one to PSU – they currently occupy space that PSU leases so putting them into an owned building can save operating costs for PSU,” Gregory said.

    ”The new space will enable us to unite under one roof for the first time,” said Kristine Nelson, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work.