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University of Utah's new student life building could help U. attract recruits

At the end of April, the University of Utah broke ground for construction of the new George S. Eccles Student Life Center, a project 10 years in the making.

Barbara H. Snyder, vice president of student affairs for the University of Utah, said the new student life center will be built with the objective of bringing the campus and community together and to help promote a healthier lifestyle.

Having healthier students and faculty members, however, might not be the only benefit of the project. Indeed, the new building may help the recruiting efforts of Utah's athletic programs.

Since moving to the Pac-12 in 2011, pressure on the University of Utah's athletic teams to perform at a higher level has increased significantly, and recruiting the best talent available has become a higher priority than ever. Having superior on-campus amenities is key to Utah’s recruiting efforts, and the George S. Eccles Student Life Center could help the Utes’ football and basketball coaches woo potential recruits.

Fred Whittingham Jr., director of player personnel for Utah's football team, said the new student life center might potentially be a strong recruiting point.

“A building like that would definitely be a stop on the campus tours we take with potential recruits,” Whittingham said. “It’s a selling point when paired with our new football facility opening up in July.”

Whittingham also said the student life center has been mentioned to current recruits as something to look for in the future should they choose to attend and play for the university.

The new facility will be built for general student use — student-athletes have their own facilities — but Snyder did acknowledge that everyone on campus is encouraged to use it. She said the purpose of the structure is to promote a “more interactive campus” by finding ways to get everyone more involved in the campus community, athletes or not.

With 190,000 square feet of space located near the Legacy Bridge that connects student housing to the rest of campus, the new facility will hold fitness training space, pool areas, intramural sports, outdoor recreation as well as study space and a cafe.

Asked if there was any opposition to the project, Snyder gave a resounding “no.” She said careful consideration went into the planning and promoting of the new facility, and the student base has been on board for 10 years.

While not involved in the planning and promotion of the student life center, Whittingham said he cannot recall any opposition to the new facility. He said buildings like the George S. Eccles Student Life Center are the future of college campuses and will put the university in a good position to gain good recruits — not only on an athletic level, but on an academic one as well.

Whittingham also said he feels Utah can increase its recruiting profile against other Pac-12 schools with a third improvement to accompany the new student life center and the recently completed football facility.

“Expanding the stadium and giving it a face-lift would be nice,” he said. “We don’t want to make it too big so there are empty seats, but to close in the south side more to make it that much louder would be ideal.”

The new student life center will be completed in December 2014.

Michelle Bodkin is a Utah native and graduate of the University of Utah. Email: