Rec fees not waived during reconstruction

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Students have expressed concern with the summer semester recreational center fee being the same amount as the fall and spring semesters, mostly in part because almost half of the rec was closed because of flood damages from April.

Although the large weight room and rock climbing wall were not available to students this summer, the fee remained the same to that of previous semesters because the fee covers many other amenities and it is currently against state law to alter.

The $100 fee allows access to the Health and Kinesiology Center, the three intramural fields, lighted sand volleyball courts, eight lighted tennis courts, the Bernard Johnson Coliseum, a club sports complex called Pritchett field, which contains a quarter mile walking track plus two sport fields and a university camp.

“Most students think the rec sports fee just applies to the rec sports center, which is not true,” Associate Vice President for Student Services Keith Jenkins, Ph.D., said. “This fee that people are talking about is much more than that. It’s incredibly cheap.”

Several other universities charge a separate fee for each amenity. Sam Houston State University charges one single fee that allows access to everything it offers.

“It’s a bargain deal with or without this facility,” Jenkins said. “There’s a significant difference; the same fee that somebody would pay here, would cost about $500 at Texas A&M. If you go to UT Austin, they have a fee to use their rec sports facility, a fee to use the gyms and another fee to use the swimming pool. We don’t, it’s all inclusive.”

During the summer, rec sports allowed students to use a smaller weight room as an alternative to the damaged large weight room. The large weight room, rock wall and a multipurpose room were the only parts of rec sports that remained closed throughout the summer. The large weight room reopened on move in day, and the other areas are expected to reopen September 19.

“What we’ve done and what’s taken us a longer period of time to get this back in operation is we hired an engineer to say we don’t want to put it back the way it was,” Jenkins said. “I’m an optimist and I thought we’d be in by July.”

The wall that sits behind the rock wall collapsed because of the amount of water pressure from the storm. The rec center has been undergoing repairs since the flood.

“If you blow air into a balloon–if you blow it so much, the balloon will pop,” Jenkins said. “What happened was water was filling that balloon and it popped. I consider this a serious event, but not catastrophic. Nobody lost their life; nobody got injured.”

Originally, the climbing area had glass all the way down to the lower level, but in order to prevent future dangers, it has been replaced with concrete masonry unit, which is similar to a concrete block. CMU was also added to areas around the HKC basketball courts that had experienced damages from the flood. A fail-safe gutter system has also been installed to the HKC to avoid further flood issues.

“We’ve gone back and made it better than what it was before,” Jenkins said. “The weight room is now open, but there’s no help desk right there. It’s coming, but the rest of the pieces of equipment are up and operational. We have to get a specialized flooring that we had to order in called ‘no-fault flooring’ that’s poured in, so we are waiting on that company to come do that.”

All equipment had to be cleaned and inspected by a hired company before it could be used. Cycling bikes in the lower area were ruined and are to be replaced. Other equipment is also in the ordering process.

“We’ve had to check with the fire marshal, and we’ve done all the dance to make sure that we comply with all codes,” Jenkins said. “So, we’ve now bricked that wall up so that this won’t happen again.”

Insurance pays for the replacement cost for the original equipment at today’s value. This means that it does not cover anything exceeding the set price range.

“We have a $100,000 deductible, so I’ve got to come up with the money some place,” Jenkins said. “We only have a limited amount of money. The state law says we can only charge $100. If we were at a school that had 50,000 students, then it’d be a different ballgame.”

The estimated total cost of repairs is about 1.5 million dollars.

“This is an upgrade whether students see it or not,” Jenkins said. “We have a lot of equipment on order that just isn’t here yet. It’s a lot of little details and with every little thing, there’s something else that dominoes from it. It’s an unfortunate thing of mother-nature, and we’ve taken precautions to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”