Student Service Finance Committee approves Rec Sports Master Plan referendum

Student Service Finance Committee members approved a student referendum at a meeting Monday that would allow students to vote on whether to increase segregated fees to fund large-scale changes to recreational facilities.

Recreational Sports Director John Horn told SSFC members about current ideas for the facilities Master Plan, which would substantially renovate or rebuild most campus recreation centers.

SSFC members unanimously voted to send the referendum to students during  the upcoming March ASM elections. However, SSFC must approve the referendum at another sessions before it gains final approval. 

The Master Plan arose from a lack of space and outdated infrastructure. Horn said recreational facilities are overcrowded and cannot accommodate the majority of requests to reserve space. Additionally, the facilities already require repairs students would need to fund with segregated fees, money paid as part of tuition.

Instead of continuing to maintain outdated facilities with repairs, the plan would implement large-scale changes to the Southeast Recreational Facility, Natatorium, Nielson Tennis Center and three outdoor fields with artificial turf, Horn said. The Neilson and University Bay Fields, both located near the UW Hospital, will not be part of the referendum because they will not be funded by segregated fees.

Horn said Recreational Sports is pursuing different funding options besides segregated fees, such as finding donors. In a “worst-case scenario” if the does not receive other funding, segregated fees would rise to $108 per semester, from the $36.78 students pay now. The average per-semester fee at Big 10 institutions is $145.06.

Horn said recreational sports hopes to make arrangements, so segregated fees would not increase until the renovated buildings opened to students.

As part of the proposed plan, there would not be a competition swimming and diving pool, which Horn said would make the UW Swimming and Diving teams unable to host meets, which they currently do at the Natatorium.

Later in the meeting, SSFC Chair David Vines said he and other student leaders are in the process of talking with officials to discuss Swimming and Diving team member’s concerns about this part of the plan.

Although no designs will be created until the referendum is passed in the spring, Horn presented current ideas for the plan to SSFC members. The SERF, for instance, could have three times more fitness space, including nine multipurpose rooms, a new larger running track and a wellness program area. 

Multiple SSFC representatives voiced support before unanimously passing the resolution for a student referendum. Rep. Devon Maier said the university’s recreational facilities lag behind those of peer institutions.

Rep. Justin Bloesch voted in favor of the referendum but said he had concerns about its large scope.

“This seems a little… more ambitious than I would personally prefer,” Bloesch said. “But this is something I think we should allow the students to recommend themselves.”

At the meeting, SSFC members also unanimously approved the $42,298.25 budget of Badger SPILL after a total $500 change from the original amount. Badger SPILL is a peer-to-peer support network for UW-Madison students, according to its website.

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