The University’s recreational sports facilities need to get in better shape — or at least that’s what a University committee determined last spring. But instead of implementing the committee’s suggestions, the University has decided to slim down the hours that recreational facilities will remain open. Citing financial reasons, less-attended morning and evening hours at the Intramural Sports Building have already been cut. But the quality of the buildings will only continue to worsen if they aren’t improved for faculty members who pay to use them. The University needs to invest in the health of its students and faculty by investing in the health of its recreational sports facilities.

In 2007, the University created the Recreational Sports Task Force to examine how to improve recreational sports facilities at the University. The task force’s findings, which were made public in March, showed the University lagging far behind its peers. For example, only Purdue and Penn State have fewer square feet of recreational facilities per student than Michigan, and only Penn State and Michigan haven’t built new facilities since 1983. The task force’s findings have been for the most part set aside, and the decision to cut the IM Building’s early morning and evening hours seems to contradict the intentions of the task force’s recommendations.

Administrators have argued that the change in IM Building hours was necessary because income from faculty membership dues to University recreational facilities has decreased. But declining memberships have probably been brought on by neglect of these facilities. Cutting hours in the morning and the evening will only further discourage faculty use by increasing overcrowding at facilities during peak hours, and in turn lose the University more memberships. Unless the University starts making improvements, the facilities will only get worse.

And they’re already in poor condition. Gym users frequently complain about long waiting lines, inadequate equipment and unsanitary conditions. The task force has recommended increasing floor space by 60,000 square feet, replacing old machines, reworking space to create a more inviting feel and making needed improvements to things like the ventilation systems. These aren’t unreasonable changes — schools like Miami University in Ohio have opted to build entirely new facilities — and if administrators are serious about encouraging a healthy campus community, they must fix the recreational centers.

Considering that health care costs are an enormous expenditure at the University, fitness centers shouldn’t be where cuts are made. While the budget is certainly tight, increasing the quality of recreational centers is an investment in the future health of the University community. The enormous necessity to students and faculty outweighs the costs.

The University’s comparatively deficient facilities are embarrassing, especially considering the University’s supposed dedication to a healthy community. While the University should look for ways to cut costs and keep tuition affordable, it shouldn’t do so at the expense of recreational facilities that are already lagging. Administrators should expand services and upgrade existing facilities to the level of quality that students and faculty deserve.

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