Friday, September 29, 2023

Construction on student recreation center begins, sparking cost concerns and hope for swim and dive

September 14, 2023
<p>The construction site of where the new Student Recreation and Wellness Center will be built at Cherry Lane Park. Photographed on Sept. 13, 2023.</p>

The construction site of where the new Student Recreation and Wellness Center will be built at Cherry Lane Park. Photographed on Sept. 13, 2023.

Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

MSU started construction on the new Student Recreation and Wellness Center last Thursday. With it came new hope for the reinstatement of MSU's swim and dive team and concerns over the student fee attached to the project.

At last Friday's board meeting, Interim President Teresa Woodruff said the new facility will enable student success and health. Construction is set to finish by Feb. 2026.

“We know that health and wellness are inextricably linked to the success of our students,” Woodruff said. “This wonderful new center will enable that success, support students’ overall wellbeing and provide opportunities to connect with one another for recreation.” 

The 293,000-square-foot facility will be located in the northern portion of Cherry Lane Park, and will act as a replacement for IM West. It will include “several gymnasiums and multi-activity courts; a turf arena; indoor running track; strength and fitness studios; a climbing wall; sports simulators, table tennis; two university classrooms; and locker and toilet rooms to meet gender-inclusive needs,” according to a release

But the new facility does not come without controversy

Controversy on the facility's cost

Students’ yearly recreation fee has been raised to $340 to account for the project’s $200 million budget.  

Hannah Jeffery, president of the Council of Graduate Students, said she pulled Vice President of Student Life and Engagement Vennie Gore and an unnamed trustee aside at a board meeting last June to discuss the impact the fee would have on students. 

“(The administrators) said basically there’s nothing that they could do," Jeffery said. "It’s already been mostly agreed to — things are mostly in place. It’s too big of an investment to pull back now.”

Yet an exemption was successfully negotiated for members of the Graduate Employees Union and students enrolled in 100% online graduate programs. GEU did not return The State News’ requests for more information, but Jeffery said the exemption was likely made thanks to a preexisting contract between the union and MSU

Jeffery is hoping the administration will be willing to work with her to create a relief fund to ease the financial burden the fee creates on graduate students. She also hopes that the board is more receptive to student input in the future. A survey of 122 graduate students found that around 90% didn’t want it.

“(The results were) concerning to me, because that question has never been asked of the students by MSU administration before,” Jeffery said. “I definitely think there are problems with keeping the ability … to make a difference so far away from the student body,” she said.

MSU Deputy Spokesperson Dan Olsen told The State News that MSU is having conversations with students “to help address some of the concerns.” 

The result of those conversations remains to be seen

New hope for swim and dive

Plans for the recreational center also include a 50-meter pool, sparking hope for the reinstatement of MSU’s swim and dive team

Former MSU president Samuel L. Stanley Jr. and then-Athletic Director Bill Beekman announced plans to cut the team in the fall of 2020, citing financial problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it was later revealed that the program had been on the chopping block as early as fall of 2019, Beekman told The State News

The team fought this decision in a high-profile Title IX case that ended in late 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided they would not hear the case

When Woodruff was appointed to take Stanley's place last fall, the board asked her to reopen discussions with the team's “persistent proponents,” chair Rema Vassar said in June.

Interim-president Teresa Woodruff said last July that if advocates for the team could get $26.5 million in pledged donations by Oct., MSU would bring back the team.

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

By Aug., advocates received $5.25 million in pledges. Michael Balow, the father of a former MSU swimmer and leader of Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive, couldn’t say whether they are on track to getting the $26.5 million by the deadline, only that there “are ongoing discussions with very large donors.” 

Advocates for the reinstatement of the team addressed the board at their meeting last week

Samantha Barany, executive director of the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America, argued that the pool could host NCAA style championships, bringing money to campus and athletic programs

Mike Bottom, coach of the University of Michigan’s swim and dive team, said he’s “ready to commit” to help build the program if it is reinstated.

“You have the opportunity to do something fresh,” he told the board. 


Share and discuss “Construction on student recreation center begins, sparking cost concerns and hope for swim and dive” on social media.