Rec Center Still On Hold
Simpson Has Yet to Sign Off on Project; Location Still Undetermined
A year and a half after thousands of UB students, staff and faculty members voiced their support for a multi-million dollar recreational center on North Campus, there is little word as to whether or it will become a reality.
So what's UB waiting for?
According to Vice President of Student Affairs Dennis Black, there are plenty of factors holding up the decision.
"If we are going to go through with the recreational center, we would have to improve Clark Hall and South Campus," Black said. "You can't build the Taj Mahal on North Campus and have a lean-to on South."
In January of 2003, representatives from Brailsford and Dunlavey, a consultant firm from Washington, D.C., and Cannon Design a national concept design architecture firm with an office in Buffalo, unveiled a concept for a new recreation center on the North Campus and potential renovations to exercise facilities on South Campus.
Possible plans for the center include a pool, weight room, indoor track, juice bar and aerobics room.
A campus recreation survey conducted in the fall of 2002 solicited over 10,000 responses, and the majority of participants opted for major improvements.
"The feasibility survey was the largest response to any university request," said Black.
Even with an increase in fees of $165 a semester, 60 percent of the students who answered the survey said they would support the new recreational center.
Although building the center is a realistic option, said Black, a few stumbling blocks may have developed since the survey in the fall of 2002.
"There have been tuition increases, the economy is more expensive, and fees are expensive," said Black. "When you ask people to spend money on something, it's completely different than them actually taking out their wallets."
Black said two spots on campus are currently under consideration for the workout space - a large space along Lee Road, and the lawn between the Commons and the Student Union.
"We have supporting arguments for both locations," he said.
According to Black, new UB President John B. Simpson will play a deciding role.
"It's on the list of things for him to consider," said Black. "Are these the kind of projects he thinks is important enough to go through with? It's a little early. I don't want to say he's holding it up, but he can't say red light green light just yet either."
To build a facility of this caliber would be a time-consuming project, Black said.
"If we were to say today that we wanted to do it, it would take two-and-a-half to three years," said Black.
Facilities coordinator Robert Maxwell said UB should respond more quickly to the known athletic interests of its community.
"I'm disappointed we don't have a shovel in the ground," he said. "I've watched Alumni go from a ghost town to a building with people. A new recreational center is badly needed."
According to Black, the recreational center will cost almost as much as all of the on-campus apartments combined.
"The recreational center could cost anywhere between $40 million and $80 million," Black said.
He also said most schools in the Mid-Atlantic Conference have similar recreational centers.
With the survey information complete, and tentative blueprints underway, all the recreation center now needs is the green light.
"Hopefully, with (Simpson's) support, it's a project that can go forward," said Black.
About a year ago, The Spectrum asked junior Jessica Lumb her opinion on the issue. Though she's still looking forward to the recreational center, she said she's unhappy that plans have yet to be carried out.
"Many of my friends that used to go to Alumni religiously now go to the Buffalo Athletic Club because they feel that Alumni is always too crowded," Lumb said. "In addition to that, the BAC has more equipment and you never usually have to wait for a machine."
"As I said last year, I would pay additional fees in order to have access to a more well equipped fitness center," said Lumb. "I also think that students who don't normally work out would check out a brand new gym and be more likely to work out."