Students find new ARC worth the cost

By Sarah Small

In the September 10, 2008 edition of The Daily Illini, the article “New gym funded by students,” listed $82.7 million as the “operating budget” for the construction of Campus Recreation Center East (CRCE) and the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). The $82.7 million figure was actually the total cost for planned renovations and construction of the two facilities.

The Daily Illini regrets the error.

Its renovation funded entirely by student fees, the Activities and Recreation Center opened in late August, with more space, new equipment and a hefty bill.

The University is still paying for the refurbished building, and collections of a permanent $77 per semester student fee will go toward bond payments and maintenance.

In the mid-1990s, Tony Clements, director of the ARC, along with other administrators and students began touring different recreational facilities at universities across the country.

After visiting about 200 different schools, they surveyed University students, asking what they wanted in a student recreational facility. The verdict they reached was that it was time for the Division of Campus Recreation to improve their two existing facilities: Campus Recreation Center East and the Intramural and Physical Education building.

The renovation of the ARC began in March of 2006, just months after CRCE reopened after being entirely rebuilt.

“I think it was definitely needed. The facility makes the University world class,” said Justin Perkins, a senior in Engineering.

The project was funded completely by student fees, Clements said.

In 2001, a student referendum was held proposing that a fee be included on students’ e-bills, which would raise funds for construction of the facilities. The referendum passed, and a fee that was not to exceed $77 per semester was added, according to Board of Trustee meeting minutes from January 2002.

This was to fund construction of CRCE as well as the East Wing of IMPE and the ARC. As construction began on each of the three projects, the student fee increased in increments of $25.

Therefore, when construction began at CRCE the fee was $25. It increased to $50 when construction of the East Wing of IMPE began and increased to $75 for work on the ARC. Currently the fee is $77 and will remain there, said Jayne DeLuce, associate director for Campus Recreation.

“The fee is a permanent increase because with the new building, cost of maintenance goes up,” DeLuce said.

The total operating budget for the two buildings was $82.7 million, according to meeting minutes from February 2005. The construction budget for the ARC alone was about $50 million. The construction budget for CRCE was around $20 million, Clements said. The remaining money from the budget was used for other expenses involved in the construction, Clements added.

He also said that renovation was very cost efficient, and if they had not been careful, it would have been easy to spend much more money.

“The original building was set back very far from the street, and we were able to capture a lot of space that wasn’t being used,” Clements said.

Despite being cost efficient with construction, DeLuce said many students are questioning why none of the funds from the ARC went to the Lincoln Hall renovation.

“The ARC is funded by student fees, while Lincoln Hall is funded by the state,” DeLuce said. “When the state budget is cut, Lincoln Hall is affected. The ARC is a different type of funding.”

The basketball courts that visitors can view when walking through the lobby are an example of this “captured space.” Lots of money was also saved by keeping the indoor and outdoor pools from the original building. They were refurbished, but “there was not a need to destroy them,” Clements said.

Building planners allotted $1 million to fitness equipment in the ARC.

“We did that because the whole idea of the building is that we want to enhance your work-out,” Clements said. “This is a high-tech school, and we think students expect this facility to be high-tech too.”

One of the biggest problems with the “old IMPE” was the lack of space.

“(Before the renovation,) it was not uncommon to wait two hours to get on a machine,” Clements said.

Even with the massive increase in facility square feet, the ARC is still very crowded, even without the two-hour wait for equipment.

“There are always machines open, and the track is always open,” said Ashley Lutz, a junior in AHS.

Clements said the goal for next year is to have between two and two and a half million visitors coming to the ARC.

This is a high number, but the building was designed to facilitate a vast number of users.

“They really built it for our peak time, which is January, February and March,” Clements said.

This is the time when people are focused on New Year’s resolutions, and he did not want a lack of space to hinder people from reaching their fitness goals, he added.

“We try to make it a multifaceted facility and a very convertible space to appeal to many different people,” Clements said.