Last year students voted 912-900 to pass the now infamous referendum that called for student money to build a new recreation center. Despite the electoral victory in last April, the Campus Recreation program and the concept of a new rec center in general have come under heavy fire. Critics of the new student building have cited the minimal participation in last year’s vote and unclear implementation plans now that the funding is secure.
The project has been in constant flux ever since the additional student money was approved, which will be tacked on to quarterly bills starting most likely in fall 2005. However there are several factors that could push back construction.
Campus Recreation advisor Alex Accetta is one of the driving forces behind the rec center push. "We’re struggling. It was a lot simpler when it was just housing and the rec center," Accetta admitted last Thursday.
Now that housing has been eliminated as an option, the latest plans call for a brew pub and additional retail space on the ground floor, with administration offices occupying the top three floors. This is where things get a little tricky. The office space is a bone of contention for some, who wonder why the administration, including the president, should have a place in a supposed student building.
In a Vanguard article last week (Student Rec Center Takes Form, Feb. 1, 2005), student rec center committee member Dalton Higgenbottom, referring to the administration’s role in the building, was quoted as saying, "We own the building and they will be renting."
Accetta contests Higgenbottom’s statement, calling it completely false. "The State of Oregon will own the building once it’s built," Accetta said. "That’s the way these things get built."
Accetta clarified that PSU students were putting up only enough money to cover the cost of the actual rec center, which will be roughly $22 million by the time it is furnished. The building alone will cost approximately $44 million, with retail and administration space paid for outside of student money. All parties will pay for underground parking, as it will be shared space. "The students are not subsidizing the whole building. They are paying for their part of it," said Accetta.
Crammed in a tiny office in the Stott Center, Accetta listens to Maroon 5 and does his best to keep up with the constantly changing floor plans and numbers. "You’ve got a vision, and then you make decisions and stay in your budget," Accetta said. "Lots of the questions will get answered along the way."
There are plenty of questions left to answer. The student fee is scheduled to start when construction begins. However, Accetta notes that the fee could begin before ground is actually broken at the PCAT site. A realistic date for the process to begin puts the start date at or around spring 2006, though Accetta still gives fall 2005 the nod as "an aggressive hope."
The fee, which will appear as a separate charge on students’ quarterly bills, will start at $24 and escalate to $52 at the height of construction and operation. Confusing language on the Campus Rec website assures students that they will only be paying $41 more at the height of the process because the Campus Recreation program will be "weaning" itself off their share of SFC money, which is roughly $11-13.
The Outdoor Program and Club Sports will continue to operate outside of the Campus Rec budget and deal directly with the SFC. There is no documentation that indicates exactly when the fee, which should reach the $52 plateau by 2007, will ever be called off.
There are high hopes that the building will be ready by sometime late in 2007, but the smart money is on a winter or spring 2008 finish, at the earliest. Once construction finishes, students will receive a facility that Accetta hopes will be "functional and durable." In other words, don’t expect marble floors and exotic tiling in the pool. Do expect a student lounge and perhaps a working garden on the roof, both concepts that Accetta is fighting to keep.
A board composed of students will oversee the new rec center, with the help of "plenty of advisers," according to Accetta. "We’re all in this together," he said. "This is a groundbreaking project."
Is it worth the money?
Confusing rhetoric from the Campus Recreation website claims that somehow paying $52 a term will be a better deal for students than going to a private club. The logic is as follows: "it will cost a student a minimum $133 to take one PE class – that’s $90 for tuition plus a $43 fee," the website reads. However, "it costs at least $25/month for a private club – that means at least $75/quarter (and you would not get nearly the hours or options available)."
It should be noted that the new escalating fee for rec center construction does nothing to eliminate the $43 fee that comes with a normal PE class. It is highly confusing to compare the two, as they have no relation to each other. The real comparison is between the $52 a term that students will be paying in 2007-2008 and the $75 a quarter that the Campus Rec website claims a private club costs.
The site claims that the real increase is only $41, but it does not say why. The reason is that the new fee will supposedly replace the $11 or so per student that the SFC allots to the Campus Rec program now.
Indeed it may be a better deal to build a new rec center in the long run, but as critics have noted, each student will be paying for a facility that surely not all students will use.