From varsity rowers to intramural racquetball fanatics, student-athletes are in luck.
Thursday, the University’s Board of Regents approved $18.7 million in renovations to the Intramural Sports Building and the construction of a $168 million South Campus athletics facility — one of the largest sports-focused construction projects in decades.
The athletic campus proposal, called the Athletics South Competition and Performance Project, is funded in part by a $200 million gift by real estate tycoon Stephen Ross, a University alum. The $200 million was split evenly between the Athletic Department and Ross’ namesake business school and followed his first $100 million donation to the school in 2004.
Plans for the athletic facilities call for the construction of a 310,000 square-foot facility designed to serve student-athletes, including participants in men and women’s track and field, cross country, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, tennis, gymnastics and women’s rowing teams.
“What I appreciate about the proposal is the holistic approach that it takes,” University President Mark Schlissel said. “It allows us to address a number of important needs across these teams simultaneously.”
According to Douglas Strong, interim executive vice president and chief financial officer, the project will construct five facilities including an indoor and outdoor track venue that will accommodate 2,000 and 1,000 students respectively and a lacrosse stadium slated to accommodate 3,000 spectators.
These venues will allow the University to host local, regional and national competitions.
Engineering senior Amber Smith, a two-time captain of the women’s track and field team, expressed the need for a space her team can gather and build a community.
“What I want for this University is to have its athletes brighten up when they see fellow students and families able to cheer them on at Michigan,” Smith said. “It will create a stronger and more committed fan base, better moral and greater alumni network.”
Strong also noted the new facility will also be available to the student body at large for events and special occasions.
Regent Mark Bernstein (D) and Schlissel voiced the importance of ensuring the facilities are available for every student on campus.
“I’m pleased that this proposal centers around enhancing the student experience,” Schlissel said.
The regents also approved a proposal to renovate the aging Intramural Sports Building. When it opened in 1928, the iconic Intramural Sports Building was the first facility at an institution of higher education dedicated primarily to intramural sports.
The $18.7 million project is one of multiple upgrades funded by the Student Life Student Fee for Facility Renewal initiate.
In April 2013, the regents voted to administer a $65 per-term student fee to fund renovations of campus unions and recreational sports facilities.
“The IM Building is an important center for health recognition and social interaction,” said E. Royster Harper, vice president of student life. “The building serves over one million student (visits) per year.”
The project will reconfigure existing space to create new exercise rooms, locker rooms, a larger cardio workout area, improved racquetball courts and staff offices. It will also improve mechanical, electrical and plumbing work; lighting improvement and gymnasium floor replacement work.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, LSA senior Jacob Light, chair of Building a Better Michigan, a group which spearheaded efforts to update the University’s public recreation spaces, thanked the regents for their continued support of these projects.
“Students expect that their sacrifice of a large portion of gym space and financial burden born unto them will bring rewards in the future,” Light said. “We renovate these spaces to ensure that high quality facilities are open for and inviting to all students; irrespective of race, gender, ability or socioeconomic status.”