A referendum for the establishment of a new Wellness-Recreation Center on The University of Texas-Pan American campus is one step closer to becoming a reality.
More than 1,600 students went out and voted, March 29-April 1, during the Student Government Association elections to decide whether a fee should be created to fund the 100,000 square-foot facility.
A total of 1,411 students voted "yes" to the referendum, while 220 voted "no." Almost 10 percent of the more than 15,000 students at UTPA turned out to vote for the referendum and SGA candidates up for election.
With the passing of the referendum, the task force of students, staff and faculty, who researched and proposed the construction of the new building, will now begin the job of enlisting the expertise of architects, engineers, UTPA Business Affairs staff, and others to help in the design and the budget of the project said Dr. Jerry Price, dean of students, who is also heading the task force.
The project will also be proposed to the legislature in spring 2005. Upon legislative approval and the approval of the University of Texas System Board of Regents Building Committee as well as the entire Board of Regents, construction of the facility will begin in the summer or fall of 2005.
The recommended $20-$24 million building will be a student-first facility according to Price. Faculty, staff and alumni use of the facility will be secondary and may carry a fee equal to or higher than the student fee.
The mandatory student fee will not exceed $75 per semester and $35 per summer session. The fees will cover the planning, construction and maintenance of the center. The fee will not go into effect until the center is available for student use in 2007.
The proposed building - managed by the Dean of Students Office - will house a weight room and cardio room; gymnasium for basketball, volleyball, badminton; multipurpose court for basketball, indoor soccer, floor hockey; climbing and bouldering wall; locker rooms; racquetball courts; indoor jogging track; student lounge, aerobics/multipurpose rooms; and an outdoor recreational swimming pool. A possible site for the new wellness-recreation center could be near the Edinburg Baseball Stadium.
Price said the task force researched several established wellness -recreation centers on Texas campuses in Austin and San Antonio to create the best center for UTPA students.
"The task force has seen first-hand how a quality wellness-recreation center can serve as a focal point for students and transform a university's campus life; other universities invariably report how their new center soon became the busiest, most popular facility on campus," Price said. "Most important, however, a new Wellness-Recreation Center can promote the development of a healthier, more active lifestyle that will benefit students the rest of their lives."
In the research, the task force also discovered UTPA has its recreational facilities open to students 18 hours per week compared to UT Austin's facilities that are open 19 hours per day.
"Both athletics and health and kinesiology have legitimate needs that must be met, but as a result students who want to work out or engage in other recreation activities are left with fewer hours to do so," Price said. "Most universities our size have their facilities open about 100 hours per week."
Other uses for the Wellness-Recreation Center include relocating Student Health Services to the facility; and hosting camps or other revenue generating events during the summer or semester breaks.