Overcrowding at the University of Wisconsin’s recreational facilities, which already fall 85,000 square feet short of fitness standards, could end if the student body approves a referendum to transform campus workout spaces in the spring elections.
Recreational Sports has been working toward a Master Plan for the past year that will address quality and space shortages in its facilities. With less than two months before the Master Plan goes to referendum on the campus-wide spring ballot, Rec Sports has begun finalizing design concepts and preparations.
If the referendum passes, Rec Sports will have one year to select an architect and engineer before beginning the design and construction process on the buildings, Rec Sports Director John Horn said. As outlined in the plan, the Southeast Recreational Facility would be the first building slated to open in 2019 and the Natatorium would open in 2021.
Given the major space concerns that already exist within its facilities, Rec Sports is working to determine how it will address these concerns if there is one less facility available due to construction, Horn said.
“There’s no question that this will be an inconvenience for a couple of years while one of the facilities is closed,” Horn said.
He said Rec Sports would shift some equipment to facilities that would be available during construction, such as the Camp Randall Sports Center and Nielsen Tennis Stadium. Rec Sports is also working on how to best use the spaces with UW Facilities, Planning and Management, UW Division of Housing and the Wisconsin Union to come up with options to place some overflow equipment at those facilities, he said.
Facilities, Planning and Management Director Bill Elvey said the Master Plan’s timeline is achievable, but also described it as “aggressive.” He said completing the Master Plan’s benchmarks on time would depend on a variety of factors.
“As it goes through design phase, you refine things along the way. The further along you get in the process, the more you know when something’s actually going to be completed,” he said.
The Master Plan, which outlines developments from 2014 through 2022, includes the SERF, Nat, Near East Fields and Near West Fields. The plan will cost $223 million in total to execute, approximately 60 percent of which is expected to be covered by student segregated fees, Horn said.
Rec Sports anticipates $95 million of the cost would be covered by alternative funding. Horn said they will ask for $30 million in state funding and provide $5 million from Rec Sports program revenues. Rec Sports estimates receiving around $53 million from gift money supported by the chancellor and UW Foundation and money from private donors, he said.
Horn said Rec Sports would also ask UW Athletics Department for $7 million to reproduce amenities from the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center in the new Natatorium, which would include an ice rink and indoor track. He said the Shell is not included in the Master Plan based on feedback from students and because its budget contains money for repairs and maintenance over the next five years.
The remaining costs could result in up to a $108 increase in segregated fees, although Horn said he was confident with the alternative funding methods, the amount would be lower. Horn said he also expects students will not begin to pay for building costs until the first major amenity is opened.
Additionally, Rec Sports will ask for around a 10 percent increase in student segregated fees this semester that would go into effect next year to allow for maintenance costs for facilities if the referendum does not pass, Horn said. If that happens, these fees will continue to increase annually, he said.
The Master Plan designs and estimates are not yet final and could change ahead of the referendum, Horn said.