ArticlePage address: http://www.mnsu.edu/mssa/news/html/campus_rec1.html
Recreation Plan Funding Sources Undetermined
All avenues of possible funding will be exhausted before proposal is finalized.
by Kim Broback
A vote on the Outdoor Campus Recreation proposal was postponed last semester, though the plan is far from dead. Methods of funding remain the biggest hurdle thus far.
Director of Recreation Todd Pfingsten calls it "a living plan" and said administrators have been doing their homework to make sure the proposal is well-researched before a student referendum takes place. The vote was originally slated for sometime this spring, but President Richard Davenport postponed it in February to obtain additional student input.
Since then, Pfingsten said he's been working with an Outdoor Recreation Master Plan Committee which consists of students, faculty and staff to finalize costs and layout for the project.
When the south campus proposal was presented Jan. 23 at a Student Allocations Committee meeting, it would cost $21.7 million and included converting field three into a soccer pitch, constructing a multi-purpose stadium and student ice facility, installing synthetic turf in Blakeslee Stadium and the new stadium and putting a seasonal bubble over both. Funding for the original plan was to be solely through student fee increases.
The most recently revised version does not plan for the ice facility or a bubble over Blakeslee, but it calls for hitting walls to be put up on both sides of the tennis courts. Rough numbers for the project costs are now between $11-16 million, according to Pfingsten.
"We're aiming for around $14 million," Pfingsten said. "A student referendum would be next spring at the earliest, but I can't even guarantee that. A lot of homework goes into it."
Pfingsten said the process has definitely slowed down, but that's a good thing.
The committee formed to finalize the proposal consists of Pfingsten, Kevin Buisman of Athletics, Larry Kohanek of Facilities, Gary Rushing of Human Performance, Walt Wolff of Admissions, Pat Swatfager-Haney of Student Affairs, and President Gabe Afolayan, Vice President Chris Frederick and Speaker Jered Jackson of the Minnesota State Student Association (MSSA). Another student, Josh Munsch, was formerly a member before graduating in the summer.
"We've had several meetings throughout last spring, summer and this fall," Pfingsten said.
The committee has already had at least two meetings this fall, and Afolayan said another will be arranged in the near future.
The architectural firm handling the project planning is TKDA, located in the Twin Cities. Pfingsten said the engineer, Rich Gray, has been good to work with.
"He really listens," Pfingsten said.
He added that another large part of the progress made so far has come from the collaborations the committee's had with faculty from the astronomy department.
"One of the biggest issues was the lighting," he said. "We had to figure out how to light the facilities without interfering with the observatories."
Pfingsten said astronomy faculty members were happy with the new layout plan, making suggestions and cooperating with the needs of the proposed facilities.
Afolayan said he wants to make sure the students are well-informed about the plan, and that enough research goes into how it will be funded. Pfingsten said before the plan is brought to the student senate, all the possible means of funding must be exhausted before costs fall completely on an increase in student fees.
"Quite frankly, my primary concern with this is that students are aware of the implications of what it will cost," Afolayan said. "We're talking about a minimum of $100 per year, assuming there are no outside sources."
Afolayan also said preliminary results gathered from MSSA surveys conducted last year, student concerns fall mostly on their fees and tuition, and most of them would like to see their money going to academics.
"We need to let students know that they'll benefit both recreationally and academically," Pfingsten said. "Health and wellness is a hot topic on campus right now. This will allow students to acquire more life skills and recreate in quality facilities."
Afolayan also said it is clear MSU students are price-sensitive after viewing survey responses.
Some of the anonymous responses included phrases such as, "enough with sports and recreation" and "student dollars should go toward something more useful like renovation of current classrooms."
"Tuition is almost at the breaking point," Afolayan said. "We want students to weigh-in their class and work loads. Some students already work two or more jobs. Are they even going to have time to use the facilities?"
Pfingsten said the administrators will continue to bring students in on the proposal's progress by updating the Web site and providing updated layouts and costs.
"The student representatives we've been working with on the committee are very knowledgeable and they really do care," Pfingsten said.
Frederick said the plan is "very liquid" and not enough research has been completed to make a decision about whether or not the project is a good idea.
"Todd [Pfingsten] has been playing a huge role," Afolayan said. "Rest assured, the MSSA will make sure students find out about the plan."
Pfingsten, Afolayan and Frederick agreed students will be informed via Web sites, open forum discussions and any other means necessary to allow them to take an active role in the decision.
"I'm optimistic," Pfingsten said. "It's going to take a lot more education on our part, but the students have to buy into it." He added that the committee's next step will be to meet with the cities of Mankato and North Mankato, the school district (District 77) and possibly Bethany Lutheran College and South Central College representatives to discuss funding avenues.
Kim Broback is the Reporter Assistant News Editor
The new and renovated areas of the proposed Outdoor Campus Recreation include: 1) a rugby field, 2) resurfaced existing tennis courts, new courts and hitting walls, 3) a lighted, synthetic turf varsity soccer/multi-purpose field with a bubble, 4) two natural turf practice football fields, 5)synthetic turf on Blakeslee Stadium, 6) a discus/ hammer throw area, 7) a lighted natural turf soccer field with a track, 8) a lighted natural turf recreational soccer field, 9) lighted recreational softball and touch football fields, 10) a lacrosse field, and 11) unlighted recreational softball and touch football fields. The most recent Outdoor Recreation Proposal is expected to cost between $11-16 million, with the goal cost being $14 million. The plan is for the south campus area of MSU. A student referendum could be planned for as early as next spring, though administrators do not guarantee that.