?Working as a Fitness Consultant and supervising the exercise spaces for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Recreational Sports, I get a firsthand look at the deteriorating facilities that are available for students and faculty here at the university. But it does not take an employee to see that these facilities are not meeting the demands of a university as prestigious as the University of Wisconsin.
As of now, our current facilities devote about 15,000 square feet towards undesignated fitness space, leaving students and faculty members waiting for sometimes up to an hour just to get on a treadmill or an elliptical machine. These numbers are the lowest in the Big Ten, and universities such as Ohio State, Illinois, and Purdue have more than 40,000 square feet devoted to the same purpose. Outside, intramural sports suffer as our fields used for soccer, football, softball, etc. often incur cancellations due to poor field conditions, especially after large amounts of rain. Additionally, our facilities are struggling to remain up to date with code requirements that are becoming stricter as time passes. It is clear that these conditions call for a time of change and renewal for the University of Wisconsin.
As the upcoming referendum becomes an issue for students to vote on during the ASM elections March 3-5, it is helpful to be aware of what exactly these changes could include. If the referendum passes, the Southeast Recreational Facility, otherwise known as the SERF, could add on three times the amount of current fitness space, many more multipurpose rooms, twice as many basketball courts as the current facility, and new recreational space that could be used to hang out with friends or a place to study. The Natatorium, or Nat for short, would see almost seven times the current fitness space, including an addition that would include an indoor turf field and full hockey rink. These changes would provide tremendous improvements for our facilities along with a better experience for the students and faculty members who use the facilities. However, changes such as these are never free.
So this leads us to the ultimate question: What cost implications does this referendum have? The project as a whole is estimated to cost approximately $223 million, a number that would scare most people. While many would think that this costly plan would send most Conservatives running, College Republicans of UW-Madison supports the plan because it makes fiscal sense. First of all, RecSports has offered keep segregated fee increases to a minimum, until the project is complete. Therefore, we could leave a legacy on this campus without paying for something that we would never get to use. In addition to this fact, 43 percent of the project costs would be financed by external sources of income such as donations, state funding, and RecSports revenue. Additionally, this project would increase segregated fees for future students, but the fees would still be below most schools. On average, Big Ten students pay $145.06 of their segregated fees towards their Division of Recreational Sports while University of Wisconsin students pay a little over $30 towards Recreational Sports. With the passing of the referendum, segregated fees would increase to around $108 per semester, which is still well under the Big Ten average.
If the referendum does not go through, students will be forced to pay more in their segregated fees devoted to Recreational Sports effective immediately for repair on the current facilities and to get them up to modern code. This decision only makes fiscal sense and this is why College Republicans endorse the plan. We believe that in the wake of tuition increasing substantially year after year that there is a responsibility to save students as much money as possible. After Scott Walker signed the two-year tuition freeze for all University of Wisconsin system students, passing the referendum would be another way to save students money all the while making a mark on this campus for future students. So this poses the question for students voting in the elections: Would you rather leave your mark on this campus and improve the “Wisconsin Experience” for future Badgers at no cost to you, or pay more towards tuition now just to update the worst facilities in the Big Ten? The choice is yours.
Ryan Karow is a sophomore majoring in accounting. He is also a part of the Finance Committee of UW Madison's College Republicans. Please send all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.