Students at The University of Texas-Pan American will soon be enjoying a $26 million state-of-the-art Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex, which cleared its final hurdle in the Texas legislature May 25 when both the House and Senate signed HB 258 approving its establishment.
"This facility will give our students and staff an opportunity to pursue a healthy lifestyle and develop healthy lifetime habits," State Representative Aaron Peña, the legislation's author, said upon the bill's passage. "I am proud to get this important legislation to the governor for the benefit of UTPA and its students." The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, was signed by Governor Rick Perry June 17.
Initiated with the passage of a referendum presented to UTPA students in April 2004, the facility will be funded by a mandatory student fee not to exceed $75 per semester and $35 per summer session. While planned as a student-first facility, the complex will be also available to staff, faculty and possibly alumni with a fee equal to or greater than that of students. The fees, which will cover the planning, construction and maintenance of the complex, will not go into effect until the facility is built and occupied, projected at September 2007. Construction will begin January 2006.
The complex will be located at the southwest corner of Sugar Road and Schunior Street adjacent to the Bronc Village residential area on campus. The facility grounds will encompass 148,000 square feet, more than 92,000 square feet of which will be an architecturally compatible building housing a weight and cardio room; three indoor courts, one being a multipurpose court that will accommodate indoor soccer and floor hockey; climbing and bouldering wall; four racquetball courts; a three-lane jogging track; student lounge; a meeting/training room; locker rooms; and two aerobics/multipurpose rooms.
Other facilities on the grounds will include a 5,800-square foot outdoor recreational swimming pool and two each of outdoor basketball courts, beach volleyball courts and tennis courts.
Current plans also call for the complex's 56,000-square foot outdoor area to include a large landscaped portion for outdoor events including band concerts, outdoor movies and festivals.
"We hope it will be the centerpiece of our campus," said Carlos Caceres, coordinator of campus activities in the Dean of Students office and a member of the Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex Task Force.
Headed by Dean of Students Dr. Jerry Price, the task force is comprised of staff, faculty and students who have been working with architects, engineers and Business Affairs staff in planning the design and budget for the project. Price's office will oversee the operation of the facility with a center director to be hired in the future.
"We recently had a town hall meeting for members of the campus community interested in the new Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex. We want to make sure students are getting what they asked for," said Caceres, who noted several suggestions by attendees at the May 3 town hall gathering were incorporated into subsequent architectural renderings of the complex. Periodic updates on the complex's progression are also planned for the campus community.
Caceres said the task force has taken great care in providing the latest in technology and functionality in the facility that might be needed by today's and future students, including, for example, the availability of cordless Internet access, as well as ensuring adequate electrical access points necessary for a lot of the current exercise equipment now available. Research on and visits to other wellness and recreational centers on university campuses in the state were conducted to help determine what to include or not to include in the UTPA center.
Price said the Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex will promote the development of a healthier, more active lifestyle that will benefit students the rest of their lives.
"We believe this facility has the potential to transform the campus for our students. First and foremost, it will facilitate students' interest in, knowledge of, and access to wellness practices that will lead to their living a healthier life, long after they leave UTPA. However, we also are confident the complex will be an attractive place for our students to gather and interact all hours of the day, which will greatly enhance the social climate of the campus," he said.
For more information on the Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex, contact Price at 956/381-2262.