Recreational facilities across campus could receive a major facelift if proposals pitched in a new report submitted to the University administration are approved.
In the 91-page report released to The Michigan Daily earlier this week, a campus advisory committee outlined its recommendations for improving the University’s recreational sporting and exercising facilities.
The group, the Recreational Sports Task Force, is a committee made up of 11 University representatives, including students, faculty and administrators. The committee was formed in the fall of 2007 by Provost Teresa Sullivan and Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper to examine how to best improve the University’s recreational sports facilities.
The task force submitted a report to Sullivan and Harper in early February outlining their recommendations to improve the University’s recreational facilities.
Among its ideas, the task force recommended the creation of a master plan to improve the quality and atmosphere of recreational facilities and increased funding to the recreational sports department.
Most notably, the task force recommended in its report that all of the recreational sports facilities, including the Central Campus Recreation Building, North Campus Recreation Building and the Intramural Sports Building, be overhauled to provide fitness center-style space.
“In general we recommend that all facilities be upgraded to conditions that are closer to a ‘health club’ atmosphere and less like a high school gymnasium and weight room,” the report reads.
The report also outlined the committee’s recommendation to “significantly improve” the cleanliness of the recreational facilities, citing cleanliness as a major concern among surveyed students and staff.
In the report, committee members recommended an expansion of the CCRB’s basketball and swimming facilities, as well as additional space for weight lifting and cardiovascular activities. The committee recommended the expansion be accomplished through reallocation of space in the CCRB from the School of Kinesiology and the School of Dance, which would provide an additional 60,000 square feet of space.
An audit by Brailsford & Dunlavey, an outside consulting firm hired by the University to assess the University’s recreational sports facilities in 2003, recommended similar improvements. The consultants recommended a 20,000-square-foot addition to accommodate four basketball courts, which could also function as volleyball or mini-soccer courts, and six additional racquetball courts. The proposed addition would also house two more lanes for lap swimming and an additional pool for recreational swimming. Committee members stressed in the report that they do not necessarily endorse all of the plans proposed by the consulting firm.
The committee is also recommending that the CCRB be changed into a more student-friendly space with an extended schedule that would keep the CCRB open until 2 a.m. each day and could potentially include a café.
Just outside of the CCRB, the task force is recommending that University officials add more basketball courts to Palmer Field. The committee is also proposing the construction of an outdoor stage on the north end of Palmer Field.
On North Campus, the committee is recommending that the North Campus Recreation Building be converted to better serve the needs of faculty, staff and families on campus. The committee is proposing additional space for cardio and weight training, additional parking and more programming geared toward families. In the long run, the committee is also urging University administrators to expand the NCRB facilities to meet growing demand for the facility.
The committee has also recommended the renovation of the Intramural Sports Building pool to highlight the building’s original design features. Additionally, the committee said the renovation would uncover several windows that would create a brighter and more aesthetically pleasing space.
In addition to these recommendations, the committee has also advised University administrators to replace the grass at Mitchell Field and Elbel Field with synthetic turf. The task force has also recommended adding more lighting and new security fences to Elbel Field, where the marching band practices.
Despite the lofty recommendations set forth by the task force, committee members wrote in their report that they did not want to offer advice on how to finance the operations. Instead, the committee encouraged University administrators to make fees for the recreational facilities very affordable to encourage more students and staff to use the facilities.
For University staffers, the committee proposed a percentage of the employee’s pay be deducted as the facilities fee. This would mean an employee making $100,000 would likely pay more than an employee making $50,000, although caps were recommended for employees making a certain amount of money.
In addition to the proposed facility changes, the committee has recommended several other changes, including the reassignment of the department from the Athletic Department to the Office of the Provost.
In the report, committee members argued that such a move would allow the department to better represent students and faculty who use the recreational sports facilities. As part of the move, the committee also recommends changing the department’s name from the Department of Recreational Sports to the Department of Campus Recreational Sports and Fitness.
Kinesiology Prof. Beverly Ulrich, who also serves as the director of the Center for Human Growth and Development and is a former dean of Kinesiology, said the committee relied on several sources when forming its recommendations. The group toured the campus facilities, reviewed information on facilities at other schools, spoke with groups on campus that encourage exercise and healthy lifestyles, reviewed a student survey from 2003 and conducted a survey of faculty and staff, Ulrich said.
Ulrich said she understands the University’s budget may be tight next year but that University administrators can move forward with planning to prepare for when money is available.
“Because (the) plan is going to require some time, that allows the University to focus on some things that perhaps in the short term — when the economy is particularly tough — might not be that expensive and would still allow us to meet the needs of our campus community,” she said.
Ulrich said recommendations like walking paths and bike trails would be an economical way to begin implementing the committee’s recommendations while planning for larger projects is underway.
“The cost for things like this are not as great as adding another wing to a building or another pool or gymnasium,” she said. “We recommend developing some of the non-traditional spaces that are available on North Campus, Medical Campus, Central (Campus) and South Campus.”
Ulrich said smaller things like that or keeping buildings open later at night would increase student activity at the facilities and likely provide more support for further facility improvements.
“Smaller steps can combine in the total to generate more enthusiasm and more activity,” she said.
Because some of the larger plans require cooperation from other units, like the School of Kinesiology and Athletic Department, Ulrich said coordination in the planning process would be essential.
Ulrich said although the committee made several recommendations, the decision is ultimately up to the Provost and Vice President for Student Affairs.
“We believe it was our goal and our responsibility to identify needs and possibilities, but it is then truly I think the purview of the provost, whom we suggest Recreational Sports report more to, and the director of Recreational Sports to work through the complexities of those to identify really what can happen,” she said.
In an exclusive interview with Provost Teresa Sullivan yesterday, Sullivan said she was impressed by the group’s report.
“The task force took their charge very seriously and they worked hard to look at a wide range of issues around recreational facilities,” she said. “I think they did a good job of that.”
Sullivan said she has had discussions with several groups and individuals to receive feedback about the report’s recommendations.
“I sent it out to a number of groups with whom I work,” she said. “I know that Vice President Harper also sent it out to a large number of people she works with.”
Sullivan said the groups she had discussed the report with included the Athletic Department, the Recreational Sports Advisory Group, the deans of each of the schools and the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs — the leading faculty governance body on campus. Additionally, Sullivan said she plans to bring the report up in an executive meeting with all of the vice presidents at the University.
Because several other people will be involved in determining how much funding is directed to implement the committee’s recommendations, Sullivan said she’s not sure at this point what recommendations will be implemented.
Sullivan explained that allocating more funding for recreational facilities would mean cuts to other departments or a tuition increase for students.
“What is it that we want to do less of so that we can do more of this?” she asked hypothetically.
Although she’s not certain what projects will be funded, Sullivan said many of the proposals fit well with several of the University’s high priorities, including active lifestyles for students and faculty, and could potentially help with recruitment efforts.
Sullivan said if some recommendations can’t be funded this year, she hopes to keep them on the table for next year. A final budget proposal will be submitted to the University’s Board of Regents in June.
LSA sophomore Sean McHenry, who uses the CCRB on a daily basis, said limited space is the biggest problem with the CCRB.
“There’s a lot of room for the free weights, but the machine room itself is too small,” he said. “Right now, there’s only two rooms you can use for stretching.”
Engineering freshman Brooke Bettis, who is member of the University’s varsity golf team, said limited space was also a major issue at the Intramural Building.
“It would be nice if the treadmills were more spread out,” she said. “It feels kind of cramped.”
Engineering freshman Eric Porter added that the Intramural Building needs different equipment.
“The IM building definitely needs more cardiovascular equipment,” he said.