Starting in the fall 2019 semester, undergraduate students will have to pay $500 a year for the new recreation center, and graduate students will pay $400 a year, University of Connecticut spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said.
“For that fee, students will have access to a facility with a very wide range of amenities and programs,” Reitz said. “[The fee] will be used to pay for the center’s construction costs and operation costs.”
Cynthia Constanzo, executive director of UConn Recreation, said the fee will be charged to each student, and will be included in the fall and spring semester fee bills.
“With the center opening this summer, the fee will begin appearing on students’ fee bills starting in fall 2019,” Reitz said.
This fee amounts to $250 per semester for undergraduate students and $200 per semester for graduate students, Reitz said.
Constanzo said the amount of total revenue generated by this mandatory fee will be dependent on the student population.
“[The fee] will generate about $10 million in annual revenue and will be in effect for 30 years, which is the length of the repayment on the bonds sold to finance the project,” Reitz said.
This means at the end of 30 years, the fee will have produced roughly $300 million total.
“The revenue from this fee will be used for the bond payment and the expenses to operate the new Recreation Center including capital reserves that will [be] used for short term and long term maintenance of the facility,” Constanzo said.
Charith Tirumani, a sixth-semester actuarial science major, said he did not know about the fee, and wondered when students would be informed by the university about the change to the fee bill.
“I think we - the student body - deserve to know where our money is going and how long students are going to be paying for this,” Tirumani said.
The fee will be used to pay the “bonding” associated with the recreation center project, covering both construction costs and future operations costs, Constanzo said.
“From the time that the new Student Recreation Center was planned, the university has been committed to ensuring that the only students who pay for the facility are those who will have the chance to use it,” Reitz said. “For that reason, the university didn’t enact a fee during the construction.”
Constanzo said the center’s construction is on schedule and on budget.
The budget on UConn’s University Planning, Design and Construction site has remained the same throughout the course of the project - a $75 million construction budget out of the $100 million budget for the whole project.
Constanzo said the Board of Trustees approved the student fee before starting the project’s design phase, and also agreed the fee would not be charged until the center opened.
“The undergraduate student senate and the graduate student senate endorsed the fee for the new student recreation center,” Constanzo said.
The March 20, 2018 press release for Office of the State Treasurer details the bonds that fund construction of the recreation center.
“They will be repaid with user fees, not state allocations or taxpayer dollars. Students have advocated for, and are supportive of, the recreation center and other improvements, which will aid UConn in student recruitment and retention as well the health and well-being of the student body,” the press release said.
In 2013, when the source of funding was being determined, President Susan Herbst told the Hartford Courant UConn could not look to the state for funding, but would instead have to look at increasing student fees.
"If a new fitness center is something students truly want, then they need to make it clear to the board that they support not only a new facility but also the fee to fund it, which is the only way it can move forward," Herbst said in an email to the Hartford Courant. "It really is up to the students, since we will not reallocate money from UConn's academic mission toward a fitness center."
Ryan McNeil, a second-semester biochemistry major, said he had not heard of the mandatory recreation center fee.
“If they are gonna do it, I’d like them to allow students who are not gonna use [the recreation center] to not have to pay it,” McNeil said.
Marshall Shields, a second-semester biomedical engineering major, said was under the assumption that the recreation center would be free for all students to access.
“I would’ve loved for the university to actually come out and specifically say that this was going to be something that the students would’ve had to pay for,” Shields said.
Natalie Baliker is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Natalie.Baliker@uconn.edu.