Four years ago, Recreational Sports proposed a plan to renovate the decrepit, 1960s-era Natatorium pool. The plan lacked transparency and input from students and was rightfully voted down.
The referendum before us, a Master Plan that paves the way for the next four decades of recreational facilities on campus, bears no resemblance. When it comes to a campus-wide vote in the spring elections March 3 through 5, we emphatically urge you to vote yes.
Sweeping changes to these sorely dated facilities were in order years ago. The campus has continued to put off extensive renovations on these spaces for too long, choosing time and time again to pay only for short-sighted solutions: akin to patching a bullet wound with a Band-Aid.
Nearly 83 percent of the 43,000 students on campus use Rec Sports’ facilities or services at least once a school year, contributing to more than 1.7 million total annual visits. They’re increasingly greeted by lines out the door, crumbling ceilings and congested spaces that don’t meet the demands of students and athletes alike. Simply put, we’re being underserved by these rundown facilities.
This plan is a responsible use of students’ segregated fees. Comparisons of the University of Wisconsin’s facilities to other Big Ten schools have been part of the narrative (spoiler: UW ranks dead last in the conference for total square footage of fitness space available.) However, Rec Sports Director John Horn said a guiding principle in creating the plan was to avoid “proposing Cadillacs” on the backs of students or engaging in an “arms race” for the shiniest facilities. Instead, the plan focuses on creating new spaces that will be functional and adaptable for decades to come while fostering opportunities for new revenue sources. It no longer makes financial sense to continue pouring students’ money into facilities that have outlived their usefulness.
Voting down the Master Plan will do little to keep student fees low. If the plan is not adopted, students would immediately see a minimum Rec Sports fee increase of $46 per semester just to restore the South East Recreational Facility and the Nat to their respective original 1983 and 1964 conditions. There would be no new space, no possibilities for additional programming and segregated fees could continue to rise.
Under this plan, students get brand new facilities both indoors and out at the SERF, Nat and campus fields. Students would see a maximum increase of $108—thanks to a generous commitment of 43 percent of the total project’s funding from Chancellor Rebecca Blank, the UW Foundation and other alternative funding sources. Voting down the referendum would mean turning down that $95 million in outside funding.
More space would allow Rec Sports to increase its capacity for intramural teams by 50 percent. The plans would also increase the availability of rental space at the SERF for student organizations by 100 percent.
Voting yes on the referendum is a critical investment in the campus’s future. It’s in our and future Badgers’ best interest to invest in this plan now.