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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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    A Look at the Projected Student Recreation Center

    Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine that you, a precocious, athletic-minded Stony Brook student, just finished your last class of the day. You want to unwind by immersing yourself in a recreational sport after your long day. Excitement mounts as you call up some buddies and set up a time and meeting place.

    Chances are, you are out of luck when it comes down to the perfect place to say, shoot some hoops. On most days, the Sports Complex is full. With demand far outweighing the space available, you might have to wait your turn to play. There are also only a limited amount of sports to choose from. You can play basketball and on occasion, volleyball, soccer, or badminton. However, if the latter sports are available, then the basketball space will be cut by one-third. You can curse the gods and stomp your feet but there is an answer to all of these problems on the horizon. A project long in history but short in progress, is picking up steam. The Student Recreation Center, albeit in its design phase, is closer to being a reality than ever before.

    The history of the recreation center is one of pitfalls and delays. Originally, a campus committee of students and staff began to discuss the need for a recreational sports facility in the fall of 1999. The initiative grew in response to student survey results that noted the severe lack of such facilities on campus. The growing student population, coupled with Stony Brook’s move to NCAA Division I Athletics, taxed the existing facilities, such as the Pritchard Gym and the West Wing of the Sports Complex.

    According to Dr. Peter Baigent, Vice President of Student Affairs, the planned $39 million facility, to be erected between the Student Union and the Sports Complex, “is a project that is desperately needed.” Committee members and architects considered two other locations before deciding on the spot between the Sports Complex and the Student Union. One of the potential locations behind the Union was canceled due to size considerations and the loss of parking spots. Another location was next to the Union and across from the Wang Center. Trees were to be removed for construction to take place there. However, an architectural rendering of the facility in that location showed that the entrances would be awkwardly placed and that it would be difficult to reroute steam pipes that run in the area and which also exist under the Student Union. Dr. Susan DiMonda, the Associate Dean and Director of Student Life and the former Director of Campus Recreation, said that architects for the facility decided that pathways would be built on either side of the recreation center after watching the way students “meander” around campus.

    In October 2000, students put forward a referendum that sought to raise money for construction costs and an operating budget for the proposed facility. The students supported a bond issue to pay for the project. Under the plan, the university would issue a $20 million bond, to be paid back by students at $75 a semester per student, for the next 30 years. New York State Senator, John J. Flanagan, of the Second Senate District which Stony Brook is a part of, took up the cause in 2002 and suggested a bill to pass the bonding plan for construction. For three years in a row, the Republican-dominated State Senate approved the bill, but each time it was vetoed in the Democratic-controlled Assembly. DiMonda said, “The assembly didn’t believe in student-funded buildings. They wanted SUNY education to remain as cheap as possible, and adding extra fees wasn’t part of that.” In 2005, the bill was withdrawn, and the state approved a one time gift of $19.5 million for Stony Brook instead.

    With half of the money necessary for the project on hand, procurement of the final $19.5 million is being negotiated into next year’s campus budget and Baigent said he is “very optimistic” that this will get done. After all the funds are secured, construction is set to begin between the summer and fall of 2008. Asked about an estimate for the facility’s completion, Baigent speculated that it would be during the fall of 2010. The design of the new recreation center includes a three-court gymnasium, multi-purpose indoor arena, track, fitness center, aerobic studio, martial arts room and spinning room.

    Since its conception in 1999, the project has undergone some major changes. “The trends have changed,” said DiMonda, who has spent 19 years at Stony Brook and watched the trials and tribulations of the project first-hand, for eight years. “In 1999, Stony Brook had eight sports clubs; now there are 34.” To this end, the student recreation center will cater to clubs more than originally planned. DiMonda said the center will have enclosed space for the clubs to practice and lots of storage space for their equipment.

    The original plans called for an 88,400 square-foot facility, complete with a caf’eacute;, sauna and steam room and even a 25-foot climbing wall. Apparently,”2000 was really the zenith of climbing-wall popularity,” Baigent said. These additions have since been scrapped in the planned 90,000 square-foot building. Some things are not as in demand as they were at first. Baigent said, “We decided that the importance was in student-focused recreation space”.

    DiMonda stresses that these changes should not be seen as a negative. In consulting with other universities that have built recreation centers, DiMonda said Stony Brook found out that students under-utilized caf’eacute;s as well as sauna and steam rooms. Space constraints made it easy to eliminate these structures from the plans. Additionally, 9/11 raised the price of construction in the New York area. DiMonda explained that in some areas of upstate New York for instance, construction can cost $150 per square foot. Here on Long Island, the figure is $350 per square foot. The events of 9/11 have also made security a paramount concern. In this vein, the recreation center will have swipe card access and administrative offices will be separate from the actual recreational areas ensuring that someone entering the building for administrative purposes will not have access to the recreation spaces.

    The architects of the Student Recreation Center will be Sasaki Associates Inc., a company known for building quality recreation centers. Sasaki built one of the first university recreation centers at the University of Maryland in the early 1990s and Baigent, who had a hand in the construction of the recreation center where he previously worked, called that facility “fabulous.” DiMonda said it is still one of the best recreational facilities in the country.

    DiMonda explains how the future building will be encased by glass walls, much like the Student Activity Center. She explains how someone driving past the Sports Complex and then the Recreation Center will see students working out in a myriad of activites. DiMonda describes how the aesthetics of the university are important to President Shirley Strum Kenny and how Beyer Blinder Belle, the primary architects involved in the construction of new facilities, go over how each building fits into the master plan for the university. She also remembers when Stony Brook was called Mudville. Not only was there was no fountain on the campus, but students also wondered why money should be spent on one. “Can you imagine the campus without the fountain?” she asked.

    In the future, students might be saying the same thing about the Student Recreation Center.

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