Plan for Student Life Center dead?

By By Natalie Hale

By Natalie Hale

ASUU’s plan to build a Student Life Center may be a dead issue at the Utah State Legislature this year.

The center, which is estimated to cost around $40 million, was excluded from the Capital Facilities and Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee meeting on Monday when student government leaders had planned on presenting it.

The committee’s co-chairman, Rep. Gregg Buxton, R-Roy, told Associated Students of the University of Utah leaders last Friday that they would not be allowed to present at the meeting.

While Buxton supports the proposal, he said it didn’t have enough votes to pass out of committee.

“I have 18 presentations on the committee today so rather than put a project that I know is going to fail (on the agenda) I just didn’t,” Buxton said.

Although the Legislature did not give funding for the center last year, Student Body Vice President Toby Collett said he thought it would pass out of committee, despite some legislators’ concerns.

ASUU has been seeking approval for a $45-million bond to pay for the facility, which would be paid back over 25 years through student fees.

Administrators said part of the bond would be paid through a private donor. They have yet to find a donor.

“We are disappointed,” said Kim Wirthlin, vice president for U government relations.

Wirthlin said it is “highly unlikely” that the U will be able to get the issue on the agenda this session.

While the committee will continue to meet over the following weeks, Student Body President Jake Kirkham agreed that ASUU will likely not get time in front of the committee.

“Honestly, I think it would take a miracle for us to present,” Kirkham said.

Some legislators oppose the move because they said it is a waste of student fees.

“I understand the social benefits of the center, but I think there is a better use for student fees,” said Representative David Clark, R-Santa Clara, the house majority leader.

While getting the Student Life Center back on the committee’s agenda seems unlikely, ASUU plans to continue lobbying legislators.

Kirkham said other options include leasing the building to a private gym, securing the money for the building entirely through private donations or lobbying again next year.

“I think we are promoting a healthy lifestyle,” said Collett. “I think we are encouraging students to get together outside of the classroom.”

The Student Life Center would include several gyms, locker rooms, a natatorium, a weight room, a juice bar and a rock wall, among other features.

If the facility were built, students would pay $45 in additional fees each semester once it opens. Student leaders are unsure how much students would begin paying before the building is completed.

Jeremy Bigelow