MU rec complex faces overcrowding problem

Students face overcrowding at the MU rec complex

COLUMBIA — As MU continues to increase its enrollment, campus space is becoming harder to come by. The MU Student Recreation Complex is no exception.

"It's always crowded," Alex Rocos, a sophomore who exercises at the MU rec complex, said. "Every single time I come here, I have to wait to get on a treadmill."

The MizzouRec Services and Facilities staff realizes there is an issue with overcrowding. In general, nearly all of its multiuse spaces are at maximum capacity, particularly Monday through Thursday, said Emily Bach, associate director of management, marketing and Team Mizzou at the MU rec complex.

Bach said the Pump Room and the Jungle Gym — the MU rec complex's main weightlifting areas — are two of the most crowded areas. Several times during the first few weeks of school, both areas maxed out, and users were forced to go to a one-in, one-out policy.

The MU rec complex was renovated in 2005 after students requested better facilities in 1996, and a referendum was approved by the student body in 2001 to increase fees by $75 per semester to fund the $49.2 million project. Sports Illustrated on Campus named it the best student rec facility in the nation when it was completed in 2005.

The overcrowding began soon after the renovation.

"We anticipated the space would be conducive to 25,000 students to, at max, 28,000 students at its current square footage," Bach said. "We tipped some of those enrollment scales very quickly after we opened the facility, when we had projected it being 15 to 20 years before we reached those numbers."

Bach said that the first few weeks of the semester is when the MU rec complex is most crowded. In the first three weeks this year, an average of about 4,600 people came to the MU rec, excluding the Aug. 30 home football game against South Dakota State.

Attendance dropped off to about 3,885 per day through the end of September, excluding the Sept. 20 home game against Indiana. The complex closes its facilities two hours before kickoff for home games and doesn't reopen until Sunday at noon.

Although there have been discussions of potentially taking down the climbing wall to expand the Pump Room, a major expansion would require a student-driven initiative calling for more space, Bach said.

"The students themselves would have to collectively rally through the right venues, such as Missouri Students Association and Graduate Professional Council, to work with the Student Fee Review Committee to gather the funds to expand spaces," Bach said.

Although the complex sometimes receives complaints in the form of emails and phone calls, there hasn't been a united student movement, Bach said.

MSA isn't pursuing any expansion of the MU rec, Vice President Matt McKeown wrote in an email. McKeown wrote that if MSA were considering moving to expand the complex, it would gather as many student opinions as it could through avenues such as surveys, social media and going to the MU rec complex to talk to students directly.

"All students would be included in this process regardless if they are directly involved in MSA," McKeown wrote. "Our main priority would be to ensure that the expansion is what students want."

The MU rec complex needs students to be the driving force behind a rally for expansion because it doesn't receive general operating money from campus and is funded through the recreation facility fee and supplemental income that comes from hosting events.

Students taking more than six credit hours are automatically assessed the $140.67 recreation facility fee, and anyone taking fewer has the option to add the recreation facility fee to his or her student account. The fees are assessed and managed by the Student Fee Review Committee and the vice chancellor of student affairs.

Bach said the MU rec complex has asked only for an inflationary increase to cover the growing costs of operation. She also said that the complex has to plan out projects well in advance and save money for them, as it has done in the past with upgrading Stankowski Field in 2013 and the track this past summer. The facility is scheduled to open a new fitness space in Downtown Brewer, an area in the complex, later this semester.

"It's always an ongoing discussion in terms of how to flex space and provide good opportunities for students within the facility," Bach said. "As a department, we can only do so much because we only have so much flexibility with the fees that we collect."

The MU rec complex sees a spike in attendance during peak hours, which are between 3:30 and 8:30 p.m. For example, on Sept. 15, a Monday during the fourth week of the semester, only 2,275 people came from opening at 5:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. From 3:30 to 8:30 p.m., 2,500 visited the MU rec, including 896 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Some students are aware of when the facility gets extremely crowded, and they adjust their schedules accordingly.

"I try to get up (to the MU rec complex) before my noon class because I know it will be too crowded if I go after," said junior Matt Yacovino.

Others work out at places other than the MU rec complex during peak hours to avoid the big crowds.

"When I want to work out and it's between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., I usually work out at my apartment's weight room because I know I'll have to wait to get on machines," said senior Justin Cook, who lives at Midtown by Brookside.

Students have their own ideas of how make the MU rec complex less overcrowded.

"They should regulate the amount of people and enforce the one-in, one-out policy more quickly," sophomore Krista Dye said.

Overall, most agree that the main issue is space.

"They need more space and more weights because everyone needs enough space to work out in," sophomore Jacob Daugherty said. "Right now there's not enough of it."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

  • Michael Alvey was a general assignment reporter in the summer of 2014, and was an education reporter in the fall of '14. He is on the community outreach team for the summer of 2015.

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