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U. students pushing for new rec center

Nothing says service to college students like recreation opportunities, and nothing would say that louder than a $19 million rec center, student leaders told the University of Utah's governing board .

A feasibility study presented this month by the students shows that a centralized facility to replace the cramped, 60-year-old Einar Nielsen Field House and put the physical education and recreation complex under one roof would be a key element in attracting and retaining students.

Student Emilie Decker and student body president Jess Dalton said the two-story center, yet to be included in the university's master plan and with a location yet to be determined on campus, is supported by 93 percent of 4,425 students who voted on the proposed center at forums and information tables at 10 campus sites.

The 122,639-square-foot building would be paid for with a $9 million bond paid for in student fees plus private donations of $10 million. Students would pay $36.73 per semester for the center, with $11.58 going for bonded debt, $10.15 to operate the building and $15 for a recreation fee. The current fee is $12 per semester.

Students already need the space. Renovations at the field house competed in 1980 were designed to allow a maximum of 450 people per day. About 1,300 people use it daily. Also, because the physical education building shares classes offered by the College of Health and Athletics, student access to exercise facilities is limited.

Student rec centers seem to be popping up at campuses all over the country the past 10 years. Dalton listed about a dozen schools that have just built or are planning centers. Cost of the centers range from $6.4 million at Edinboro in Pennsylvania to $36.4 million at Texas A&M in College Station.

A new recreation center has the power to create a new campus culture, Dalton said. Administrators say it would be daunting task to find a donor capable of spending $10 million on the new center. But U. President Bernie Machen said he believes there is enough support in the administration to try.


E-mail: jthalman@desnews.com