Board of Trustees approves plans for rec center expansion, new housing

GVL / Courtesy Kate Harmon

Kasey Miller

GVL / Courtesy Kate Harmon

The Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees approved plans to expand the Recreation Center and build a new housing and academic building on the Allendale Campus during its Friday meeting.

The new housing building will be constructed near the freshmen dorms, where Robinson Field is currently located. This project costs $37 million, which will come from university-issued bonds, the University General Fund and the Housing Capital Reserve Fund. Construction will begin in March, with the goal of completion set for August 2016.

The facility will include 498 beds, three classrooms, a media room and three faculty offices, Einstein’s Bagel food service and a multi-purpose room. It will also include study space, laundry facilities and a game room. The university will tear down Icie Macy Hoobler Living Center, a 50-bed residence hall built in 1987, to make room for the new building.

GVSU can currently accommodate 5,675 students on campus, but with the expansion, there will be room for about 6,300 students by fall 2016. With this project, more beds for first-year students – who create the biggest demand for on-campus housing – will be available, which will also free up more beds for upperclassmen.

For the Recreation Center, construction of the $7.8 million project will begin in the spring of 2015, and the new area is expected to open in the fall of 2016. The current Recreation Center will receive almost 17,000 square feet of additional space, with funding by the Campus Development Fund.

Campus Recreation Director Kate Harmon sat on a university committee that reviewed data from the last five years. The committee looked at the participation, use and demands on the recreation facilities at GVSU.

“I was co-chair of this committee, as my primary role on campus was to oversee the Recreation Center,” Harmon said. “We all agreed that it was getting increasingly harder and harder for our students to access recreation space.”

The new addition will provide more space for cardio equipment, such as treadmills and elliptical trainers, and strength training equipment, such as free weights and weight machines. In addition, it will have more space for storing personal belongings and a new spin room.

Harmon said the need for more space came from the students.

“The largest growth trend in university recreation is in the area of fitness and wellness-related programs and services,” she said. “GVSU students are very involved in recreation. Participation in recreation programming has exploded.”

The recreation facility first opened its doors to a student population of about 15,000 in 1995. In 2002, the building received an addition of 18,000 square feet. However, with 25,000 students currently enrolled at GVSU and over 360,000 visits last year, Harmon and others decided it is time for another update.

Overcrowding is not the only reason to expand the Recreation Center.

“It is in the best interest of our students and their well-being to continue to support the increase in recreational and fitness space at GVSU,” Harmon said. “In order to benefit our students positively, students need to have ready access to our recreational facilities and equipment. 

“It is our job, as a student-centered institution, to reduce barriers that prevent our students from experiencing the benefits of regular exercise. This addition specifically will provide less wait time for students who wish to use particular equipment.”

Harmon said many studies have shown that college students have performed better in school when they exercise regularly. In addition, exercise prevents illness and diseases as well as improves overall mental and physical health.

She added that a 2013 Campus Recreation survey also highlights student, faculty and staff interest in recreation. Seventy-three percent of students said recreational facilities were important to their decision to attend GVSU.

Andy Beachnau, director of housing and health services, agreed with Harmon that expansion is necessary. Beachnau was part of the planning team that recommended the decision to university leaders, who then made the final decision based on GVSU’s mission, values and goals.

“Student success is the primary outcome for program and facility decisions,” he said. “Creating opportunities for student wellness is critical for student success, both academically and socially.”

Beachnau added that the addition is important because it helps students start to maintain a healthy lifestyle that can continue after graduation.

Student Senate President Andrew Plague said that, although they were not involved in the decision-making process, the expansion remains important.

“Student Senate has been voicing its desire to see the Rec Center expanded for a couple of years now, as have many other players on campus,” Plague said.

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