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University of Iowa News Release

March 2, 2004

Student Survey Supports Improved Campus Recreation Facilities

A new poll commissioned by the University of Iowa Office of Student Services shows that a majority of students believe the university's recreation facilities are inadequate and are willing to commit to an increased financial contribution for their improvement.

"The students have sent us a strong message through these survey results that they believe we need to upgrade our recreation facilities and they are willing to help pay for it," said Phillip Jones, vice president of the Office of Student Services and dean of students.

According to the report, 70 percent of students feel it is important or very important for the university to improve its recreation facilities. They are also willing to pay a mandatory student fee of between $80 and $105 per semester to help finance the improvements, considerably more than the current $2 per semester recreation fee. Any renovation or new construction costs would be paid for primarily with an increased mandatory student fee, Jones said. Other sources of funds may include gifts and athletic funds.

The consulting firm of Brailsford & Dunlavey gathered information both through focus groups and a student survey conducted late fall 2003. In the focus groups, UI students, faculty and staff were gathered for an in-depth discussion of their thoughts on the university's recreation facilities. The survey queried 3,062 students for their views.

The results of the current survey largely mirrored those of a similar survey conducted in March 2000, that showed students saw a need for upgraded recreational facilities and showed a willingness to help pay for them. Harry Ostrander, director of recreation services, said a top-flight recreational center is vitally important for UI to remain competitive in the future.

"Many studies have shown that one of the best recruitment tools a university has is an outstanding, comprehensive recreational facility on campus," said Ostrander. "It's a very important asset in recruiting and retaining both students and faculty."

The report also compared UI's facilities and fees to those at the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University and other similar Midwest universities. It found that the amount of square feet of recreational space per student available at UI was below most other universities in the group, and significantly below Iowa State and UNI. The UI has 12.17 square feet of recreational space per student. In comparison, ISU has 25.24 square feet, and UNI has 38.24 square feet. The average of all the universities in the comparison was 15.7 square feet per student.

In addition, the report found that UI students pay the lowest fee for recreational services. The average fee was $67 per student per semester, compared with the UI's fee of $2 per student per semester.

No decision has been made on whether to renovate the UI Field House, build a single, centrally located facility, or to provide some combination of Field House renovation and construction of a smaller, new facility on the east campus. However, students in the focus groups felt the UI Field House was no longer adequate and that they expected more from a Big 10 university. Although they said the building has nostalgic value, it's too small, badly laid out and too run down to be used effectively as a recreation facility. Focus group members reported getting lost in its maze of hallways. As for the pool, one student said it was "terrible, the worst swimming pool I've ever seen."

Respondents also said the two campus fitness facilities, Fitness Loft and Fitness East, are too small, too crowded and don't offer enough equipment.

Ostrander said a campus planning consulting firm is currently scouting the campus to identify possible locations.

Jones said estimates show that a student fee of between $85 and $110 per semester would be needed to significantly improve recreation facilities, whether through renovation or new construction. Although the report showed students would prefer renovating the Field House and building a new, smaller facility on the east campus, it also showed they would be willing to pay an extra $20 to $25 a semester for a single new central facility.

Ostrander said the time is right to begin planning a new recreation facility because of current economic conditions.

"Interest rates are low, so if we start building soon, we can get more facility for our money," he said. "The university has never had a single purpose recreational facility for our students, and that's unusual in today's higher education marketplace."

The entire text of the report can be found on the UI Web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~vpss/reports/index.html.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu