IM facilities committee plans to bring renovation suggestions to Board of Trustees
Despite renovations made to IM Sports-West this summer, MSU’s IM Sports facilities are still in dire need of renovations, director of recreational sports and fitness services Rick McNeil said.
McNeil, who has worked with Recreational Sports and Fitness Services for 30 years, said MSU’s IM Sports facilities need more space and significant overhauls.
“We need major renovations to IM East, West and Circle, we need to expand the footprint of IM East, we need a major overhaul of all of our outdoor field space,” McNeil said. “So what we need is a lot, but it’s a matter of competing against the dollars.”
MSU has three IM Sports facilities — IM Sports-West, IM Sports-East and IM Sports-Circle — but also has a number of smaller facilities within residential halls. Cosmetic and comfort updates this summer were made to parts of IM Sports-West.
The indoor pool space at IM Sports-West was renovated completely. By the time it reopens, there will be new grouting and tiles, a new ceiling, new lighting, acoustic panels, and a new HVAC system — heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
“This was the original HVAC system,” McNeil said. “And after 60 years of being in an unairconditioned environment, mechanical systems will rust. And they rusted. So they had to get replaced, and the university funded roughly a $4 million renovation.”
The coaches’ offices and the team locker rooms were also upgraded, McNeil said.
The pool, which has been closed all summer, will reopen later this semester.
“It’s scheduled to be open — the target is by the end of September,” McNeil said.
“This pool is 60 years old, this building’s not going anywhere, this pool’s not going anywhere. That was an investment to change what we have.”
Study lounge spaces outside the building’s classrooms were also installed and the building’s hallways and stairways were repainted in different colors and patterns.
But despite these changes, the fitness centers still need significant renovations, McNeil said.
The need for renovations to the fitness centers has been long overdue, according to State News articles from 2015, 2016 and 2017. The State News previously reported the facilities were lacking when compared to other schools, the residence hall facilities either had an absence of equipment or had damaged equipment and the facilities were underfunded.
Space and capacity for all three IM Sports facilities are major concerns, McNeil said. This has led to the need to use some fitness spaces in other ways than their intended purposes.
IM Sports-West was built 60 years ago when racquetball courts were in high demand, McNeil said. As a result, there are nine original racquetball courts on the center’s lower level, but they’re mostly used as spaces for table tennis and dance groups.
“There’s nothing economical that we can do differently with them. One thing we have done — there’s table tennis tables outside of every one of the courts downstairs,” McNeil said. “You might not have any of the courts being used by racquetball players. So it’s about repurposing space to refit the need.”
The IM Sports centers are frequently overcrowded, McNeil said. He said there’s not enough fitness space on campus to accommodate all of MSU’s students.
“We have about half of what we should have,” he said. “The maximum we can serve is only about 200 students an hour. In the wintertime, we’ll run about 2,500 students per day through just the fitness center when we get real busy. And that’ll start end of October. 2,500 students a day is not uncommon.”
McNeil, along with MSU employees from Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, Student Affairs and Services, kinesiology and landscape architecture students and more have outlined a framework to identify problem areas and needs within MSU’s current IM facilities.
The committee, which does not have an official name, hopes to identify problem areas within the IM facilities. Deputy Athletics Director Greg Ianni chaired the committee, and Vice President for Student Affairs and Services Denise Maybank convened and organized the committee.
The committee commissioned Moody Nolan, an architectural firm that has worked with other Big Ten schools, to do a study of MSU’s spaces, Maybank said.
“So throughout the spring semester straight through to June, we were having meetings that let them walk our spaces, look at what we were doing and offer us a way to contextualize what we might be able to do on our campus,” Maybank said.
From that, the committee designed a framework to pose some changes and upgrades to the spaces. The hope is that some of the ideas can be presented to MSU’s Board of Trustees at either the October or February meetings, Maybank said.
Maybank said the group will look at how to use existing spaces on campus, including outdoor spaces, in more effective ways.
“One of the things that we have to realize is a campus as large as Michigan State University and as diverse in space, there are a variety of opportunities,” she said. “We need to think about how we use some of those other spaces as well.”
After the framework is developed, input will be gathered from student leaders, Maybank said.
McNeil said the biggest obstacle will be determining how to pay for the renovations over the years, and over time as resources become available, decisions will need to be made about priorities.
“We are funded through general fund support, so we’re competing with all the academic units," McNeil said. "So we’re in the same pool of money that the provost needs to fund for all the academic units on campus. Everybody needs more money, there’s a limited amount of money because students don’t want to pay astronomical tuition any more than it is now. So that’s just a really difficult balance between affordability and need.”
Despite this, McNeil said he is more optimistic about the future than he ever has been.
“Finally, a master plan has been created by knowledgeable individuals,” McNeil said.
"We’re at least part of the conversation now, and so our priority’s been elevated because we’re part of the conversation for solution and that’s very encouraging to me.”