By Tra Friesen in News
ASCC has postponed a student vote on a new recreation center for Clark while its leadership considers other options, including a choice that they hope would be half the cost of the more than $20 million estimated for a stand-alone facility.
“We finished the feasibility study for the new building and all the ASCC members, almost all, were like ‘That’s a lot of money,’ so we wanted to see if we could do something for half that,” said ASCC Student Relations & Promotions Coordinator Anna Evanson.
In February a handful of students approached ASCC with a petition to gather student support to build a new center. During initial discussions, architects hired to develop plans for that facility also suggested other options, including the remodel of the existing O’Connell Sports Center, said Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden.
“They asked the question ‘why not consider an addition to O’Connell that would tap into the original infrastructure?’” said Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden. “‘What does that look like?’”
The new building would cost “roughly $22 million,” Evanson said.
“Once you actually start going out to bid to create a building, and if the bids come in less than that or more than that, the fee would vary based on that,” Belden said.
That price figure translates to approximately a $6 per-credit fee, but only up to 15 credits, Evanson said. That’s $4 more per credit than the $2 Penguin Union Building fee set to expire next quarter, according to Belden.
If the $6 per-credit fee was approved, any student taking 15 credits would be paying an additional $90. That’s $270 extra for three quarters.
“It’s a lot, especially if you’re a mom with three kids and you have to feed your family, and you’re never going to use the sports center,” Evanson said.
As it currently stands, students will have the option to vote down the proposal or choose between a brand new building and an OSC remodel.
The OSC remodel feasibility study has not been conducted yet, according to Belden.
“I think the number we kind of gave the architect to start working with was $10 million,” Evanson said.
That price could fluctuate depending on what the students decide they want, Evanson said.
“Do we want TV’s on the cardio or do we not want TVs on the cardio machines? Do you want aluminum or rubber-coated weights?” Evanson asked.
In their petition submitted to ASCC last February, students requested more gym space, a running track, new fitness, cardio and weightlifting equipment, more study areas, more recreation space and new vendors.
“We think we can add all of those things into the addition of OSC,” Evanson said. “It won’t be as much as if it was a whole new rec center.”
For example, Evanson said the OSC remodel would include a new vendor; the recreation center could include up to three.
If the OSC remodel price tag came in at around $10 million, the $2 per-credit fee students currently pay would still increase by $2-$3 per credit, according to Evanson. The fee increase is due to the difference in the upkeep costs of the buildings.
“[PUB] is just some office spaces, and a fireplace, some cool windows, [the new center] is going to be a new gym, there’s going to be a running track, there’s going to be sports equipment,” Evanson said.
In order for the college to take out a loan with the state, the college has to show how they are going to pay it off, Belden said. Because the facility is solely for student recreation the state will not provide funds, according to Belden.
“That’s why the students have to vote to tax themselves to pay this fee,” Belden said.
The college has already filed all of the necessary paperwork with the state in order to borrow the money, Belden said. The request is included as a part of the state’s budget, so once the legislature takes action on the budget, the college will know if it’s approved.
That’s all contingent on a student vote of course. The state could approve the loan but it would not matter if the students voted the project down, Belden said.
But even if the students do vote to support either project, the board of trustees has to approve the final project and related fees, Belden said.
“Even if the students vote it in we could say ‘the scale is just too large and the cost is too much,’” Belden said.
Last April a 130-student poll conducted by The Independent found that 77 percent of students supported the rec center. The same poll found that only 20 percent of students had heard of the project.
Evanson said she wants to inform students so that they can make an educated decision.
“I think when students saw, ‘oh do you want a new recreation center? Sign this paper.’ They weren’t actually thinking about how much it would raise the costs,” Evanson said.
Belden said even though the college will not get involved in the actual vote, it still has a big role to play.
“Our job is to watch out for their best interest and to make sure we’re not overcommitting them financially,” Belden said.
Belden said that he doesn’t believe that the board would overturn a student vote, if the vote was conducted properly.
“If students choose to vote or not vote it’s like any democracy,” Belden said. “Those who vote have a say. Those who don’t vote, they don’t have a say.”