Students who want better recreational sports facilities on campus should take care not to delete an e-mail appearing in their mailboxes today marked “Improve CCRB, NCRB, and IMB” – the Central Campus, North Campus and Intramural recreation buildings.

Paul Wong
Engineering senior Derek Herbert and LSA senior Jerry Pankratz walks out of the Intermural Building after playing basketball, passing a sign showing the proposed renovations of the building.

After promises by the Michigan Student Assembly for higher-quality facilities and months of planning and research by the Department of Recreational Sports, the two bodies collaborated to send 7,303 randomly- selected students an online survey asking what improvements they feel the University can make to Rec Sports facilities.

“The survey’s something along the lines of, ‘are you satisfied with current weight and fitness equipment?'” Pete Woiwode, MSA Communications Committee chair, said.

“We are very undersized in our weight and fitness, cardiovascular, aerobic and strength … and apparatus,” said William Canning, director of Recreational Sports.

“One question is how much they’re using the facilities now,” Canning said. “The survey will get us statistically valid results on the needs and desires of the student body.” Canning added that the current buildings – some of which were built as early as the 1920s – are too small to accommodate the growing number of students who use them on a regular basis. “We have right now 10,000 to 11,000 square feet of space,” he said. “A standard that is being used by facilities across the country is one square foot of space for every student on campus.” With nearly 40,000 students at the University, Rec Sports should maintain approximately 38,000 square feet of space.

“We have the stats of everybody that walks in the door,” Canning said, referring to M-Card information collected by electronic readers at the buildings. “We’re trying to find out the different types of opportunities we’re missing because we don’t have enough space.”

Canning said that by phasing out some extraneous aspects of facilities like the IMB – whose central second and third floors contain athletic lockers that rarely get used – more space could be cleared for athletics.

“In the past 10 years, the most lockers we have rented is 250 to each gender,” he said. “A half to two-thirds of the space in those locker rooms could become weight and fitness areas.” Canning also suggested converting some of the campus’ 32 racquetball courts and purchasing new weightlifting equipment.

To assess student demand for better facilities, Rec Sports and MSA hired a Washington-based consulting firm to write the survey and assist in monitoring focus groups and model surveys.

“The general sentiment of the focus groups that I heard loud and clear and that the consultant heard was that we have excellent recreational sports programs, but our facilities are tired,” Canning said. “This is the University of Michigan, and we ought to be the best.”

Pointing to schools like Miami University in Ohio that use updated student athletic complexes as “recruitment and retention tools for students,” Canning said the University’s facilities are dismal.

“The last major construction on this campus was when the North Campus and Central Campus buildings were opened in 1976,” he added.

“Students use Rec Sports facilities daily,” said Courtney Skiles, MSA Communications Committee vice chair. “We feel it’s important that these facilities be improved.”

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