Rec center in need of $15 million in private funds

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

U administrators and student government leaders are looking for private donors to raise the $15 million needed to move plans to build a Student Life Center into action.

The donations will supplement a $42-million bond for the recreational center approved by the Utah State Legislature last spring, which will be paid back with student fees over a period of almost 30 years.

The student fee, which will be about $60 each semester, will not be implemented until the center’s doors are opened, administrators said, so that students using the center will be the ones to pay the bill.

Fred Esplin, vice president for institutional advancement, said the U is “actively looking” for donors and has several people in mind, but plans are on hold until the donors make a decision, even though the project is scheduled to go to bid in March 2008.

“We can’t get the bond until we raise the private funds,” Esplin said. “This typically takes many months.”

The $15 million will come from a lead donor, for whom the building will be named, and a number of smaller donors.

Student Body President Spencer Pearson said the Associated Students of the University of Utah is trying to find “mini-donors” to help support the process by donating things such as weights or reading rooms to the center.

“Our primary purpose is to get the ball rolling in our department,” Pearson said.

Erika Marken, director of development for student initiatives, said the Center is expected to take years to complete.

But until the Center is up and running, students will not have to pay a dime of the costs, administrators said. The bond system will pay for construction costs and the student fees will pay back the bond after it is completed.

“We want to hold off payments until it’s built,” said Jerry Basford, associate vice president of student affairs. “It’s similar to building a house-you start paying after it’s built, not while it’s in construction.”

This is not the first time student fees have been used to finance buildings on campus. In previous years, Marken said, fees have helped pay for the Union, the Huntsman Center, the Student Services Building, the HPER complexes and part of the Marriott Library.

Plans for the Student Life Center include five sports courts, 15,000 square feet of exercise machines and weights, two pools, an indoor track, three dance studio spaces, a rock-climbing wall, lounges, meeting areas for student groups and a food court.

This “fairly complete list” of features was developed from student survey results administered by Rocky Mountain Data Control in 2004 and 2005, said Campus Recreation Director Mary Bohlig.

The center will be located east of the Union, where the old Residence Halls used to be.

Although the center will not be paid off for about three decades, Basford said it will be a positive addition to campus, giving students a place to congregate and also acting as a recruiting and retention tool to bring more students to the U.

“Students will use this center,” Basford said. “It’s not just a workout center-it’s a place to watch TV, meet and study. It helps create a community.”

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