Construction causing crowds at Rec Center

Thursday, February 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:08 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

During peak hours, there are lines six deep waiting to use treadmills. Any number of basketball players, from five to 25, are waiting to get court time at the MU Student Rec Center.

Construction scheduled to last until next year is the reason for all the holdups. Peak hours at the center have broadened to between 12-1 p.m. and 2-10:30 p.m. during the week.

“I think the next six months are going to be hell as far as getting on the court,” said Gary Freeman, who has a membership at the Rec Center. “I’m usually here two to three times a week. I’ve stayed away until late in the week hoping for less people, but it doesn’t look good.”

Runners seeking use of treadmills are also frustrated.

“I usually don’t bother to wait more than 10 minutes for the treadmills because it’s annoying,” sophomore Everly Biddick said. “But I think it’ll be a lot better once the construction is over.”

Worth the wait?

Rec Center Director Diane Dahlmann reminds students the construction is being done at their request and improvements should be worth the wait.

“This is a short-term sacrifice for long-term benefits and rewards,” Dahlmann said. “It’s all part of the agony and ecstasy of construction.”

Extensive interior work began in December, closing the indoor track, six of 10 basketball courts and mezzanine-level stretching areas. They are expected to be open in June. In August, renovation starts on Brewer Fieldhouse and should be done in late December.

Mark Bresnahan and Mykael Wright, both of whom served as Missouri Students’ Association president, pushed for renovations.

“The staging of the project was at the request of students during the Mark Bresnahan-Mykael Wright administration,” Dahlmann

said. “There was an option to shut everything down completely at the Rec Center and do all of the work at once. However, our students and student leaders said absolutely not. They wanted as much access to portions of the facility as possible even though it was going to be inconvenient for a time.”

New track, air-conditioning system included in construction

Ongoing construction includes work to add an air-conditioning system, a new indoor track surface, code-compliant railings and a new accessible entrance on the mezzanine level.

The renovations, dubbed “The Brewer Project,” are estimated to cost $49 million. Student activity fees will ultimately pay for the project. The activity and facility fees will increase $75.49 per student per term beginning in the summer. Students are paying $45.25, said Cuba Plain, director of budget and planning for the University of Missouri.

Payments for construction are coming from revenue bonds.

“It’s kind of like taking a loan to build a home, so we’ve begun to borrow money and we’ve borrowed about half of what we need so far,” said Rich Anderson, fiscal officer for student affairs. “This particular piece of the bond, the pledge to pay it off is the student activities fee. The revenue from the facilities when they’re built will repay the money borrowed.”

Both students, community members affected by construction

Restricted use of courts and the indoor track while they’re under construction can be inconvenient not only for MU students, but also community members. Generating income outside of student activity fees to defray expenses and contribute to department costs is essential to balancing the Rec Center operations budget.

“For a number of years, we’ve worked with the Columbia Youth Basketball Association on Saturday mornings, we have utilized our spaces for Show-Me State Games and we’ve been active in providing space to local high schools for special events,” Dahlmann said. “These are all things that generate income for the department.”

Some of these groups are using the Rec Center, but on a far different and reduced schedule.

“We’ve scaled that back to a Sunday morning and only during very select times,” associate director Daniel Shipp said.

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