The empty center

    Amber Blacksher hoped to schedule a yoga class at the Portland State Stott Center this fall term, but she discovered that no class times would work with her busy schedule.

    So she looked elsewhere for a yoga class.

    ”I work at PSU,” Blacksher, also a part-time PSU student, said. “I take yoga at 24 Hour Fitness because it saves time.”

    Odd hours, rising prices, and congested facilities have left students like Blacksher frustrated ?” sometimes frustrated enough to take their business elsewhere.

    24 Hour Fitness has no problem with that. The fitness club, located at 1407 SW 4th Avenue, takes full advantage of the beginning of the school year by recruiting on campus. Stephan Henry, the manager of 24 Hour Fitness, said that he enrolled over 300 PSU students last year and most have continued their contracts.

    Blacksher and students who work out at other gyms – or do not work out at all – still pay student fees to fund the Stott Center. Alex Accetta, coordinator of campus recreation at the Stott Center, said he estimates that every quarter $14 to $16 out of a student’s fees go to maintain recreation facilities. Money from the Stott Center budget of $818,000 goes to pay services, supplies, and the staff of students.

    The Stott Center fees also pay for development of programs, such as intramurals. PSU is a member of National Intramural Recreational Sports Association and some of the Stott funding has gone to pay for Accetta to take students to the Association’s regional conferences. More will pay for his trip to Ohio in October for the National Recreation Facilities Institute.

    A 1987 report on the student recreation facilities said that the Stott Center would soon fail to meet the ever-growing student population. Nearly twenty years later, little has changed at the university recreation center.

    Like Blacksher, many students find that hours to work out at the Stott Center are difficult to come by. This fall the Stott Center Schedule says its weight room is open 6:30 a.m. to 8:50 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

    The weight room is open during the same hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with an additional time at 11 a.m. to 11:50 a.m., and is also open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

    Once a student manages to make it to the Stott Center between class and work, they may find it packed with people. There is no formal record of complaints at the Stott Center, but Accetta said that most issues the students have related to accessibility.

    Outside groups also often use the facilities during open hours. Many times firefighters use the weight room, waiting their turn to use the bench press. St Mary’s High School, a private high school blocks from PSU, sometimes uses the pool. These and other community partners pay for use, and are necessary for income, Accetta said.

    ”I don’t want to rent it to them,” Accetta said, “but there’s not enough money not to rent it.” 

    Accetta said that physical education classes get the first pick of scheduling because the school earns tuition money from the classes. He said athletes get use of the facilities next because they need to arrange practices around students’ schedules, even though varsity athletics has its own weight room.

    Open recreation gets last pick of available hours. Accetta said that although P.E. and athletics are considerate, sharing with two other programs usually results in limited times for all. This may prove to be too much for some students.

    ”It’s really dark, and the equipment isn’t the greatest,” said Melissa Rasmussen, a PSU student who now works for 24 Hour Fitness. She said the atmosphere could be less than welcoming. “It’s, like, guys who are showing how manly they are.”

    Despite the restricted hours and crowding, many students still stick with the Stott Center.

    ”It’s not bad, except for the price increases,” said Sean Lopez, a student at PSU who has been using the Stott Center for about two years. He said the weight room can get full, but he goes when it’s less busy.

    Construction on the new recreation center, which is supposed to be constructed where the current Portland Center for Advanced Technology sits, still has not yet begun. The campus recreation website says that the new recreation center is slated for completion in 2010.

    Accetta said that PSU offers options that many of the nicest clubs do not have, such as intramurals and the community field.

    Blacksher said she does not have any issues with the Stott Center, she just cannot use it because of scheduling problems. If the hours worked in her schedule, she said she would give it another chance. “The facilities were pretty nice,” she said.