Rec center undeterred by threats to funding

Despite slight drawbacks in the construction of the new Portland State recreation center in recent months, officials say the project is currently making progress.


In August, the legislature gave PSU permission to borrow $42 million to build a rec center, pending approval from the Oregon University System. When Tony Rasmussen, communication coordinator for Campus Recreation was quoted in the Vanguard as saying the $42 million budget was more than necessary for the project, the Legislative Fiscal Office put a hold on the project.


“We had to go through some extra steps to get back on track again,” said Cathy Dyck, the interim vice president for Finance and Administration at PSU. “It has never happened to us before.”


Dyck said that the $42 million budget was separated into a $32 million XI-F Bond (revenue bond) for the recreation center and a $10 million XI-F Bond for student housing. The original plan for the facility was to incorporate student housing on the floors above the recreation center, but that has since changed. Dyck said that they would only use the $32 million XI-F Bond as necessity shows for the current plan that they have with the recreation center.


The Legislative Fiscal Office’s concern has since been alleviated.


The project was originally passed by polling students and asking questions, such as if they would approve of a $56 fee increase in order to affording building the new recreation center. In two different polls, the greater vote landed on the side of building it. A press release posted Sept. 16 by Rasmussen discussed the topic of the construction and approval of the estimated $42 million project. 


Rasmussen was quoted in it as saying, “With the participation of 2,623 students, this was one of the largest student surveys in the history of PSU.”  This survey was the second of two times students were asked whether they supported the project. The first was a vote in a student election in which 1,812 student voted. The rec center got a majority of student support by 12 votes, 912 to 900. This second survey, according to Alex Accetta, Campus Recreation director, passed the project by a total of 66 percent, 1,737 votes or 8 percent of the total student body.


“This is just like any vote in democracy,” said Accetta about the low total representation of student body, adding, “we could argue about the vote all day. From the people who cared enough to vote, these numbers are convincing enough.”


With the project moving forward once again, Accetta and Dyck are planning additional uses for the building’s facilities as well as working with the City of Portland in the construction of the new MAX line running right in conjunction with where the building would be.


“Right now, we’re taking the ground work we’ve done and getting ready to turn it into a reality,” Dyck said.


Dyck plans for the project to get a boost when Lindsay Desrochers, the new vice president for Finance and Administration, takes office in December. She played a large part in establishing the University of California in Merced, which is opening for its first term in the fall.


The next steps, according to Dyck, are to “really fine tune the building, the elements that make it and the revenue stream.”


As all of the $32 million XI-F Bond will be paid back by student fees, Dyck and Accetta are both examining ways to do that. It is most likely that it will be in the form of an extra student fee that will be charged each term. The bond has a 30-year period in which it can be paid back.


The possibility that the Department of Higher Education might grant a XI-G Bond, which is a grant that does not have to be paid back, is still possible if the University can get approval to place classrooms in the upper floors of the building.