New Rec Center fee will go toward debt, operations, reserve fund

The new recreational center is under construction and is said to finish for the Fall semester across the UConn Bookstore. It is said that there will be an additional fee for the new gym. (Photo by Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s new mandatory fee revenue will go directly toward construction debt, operations and a reserve fund starting this fall, according to university spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz.

“The fee generates about $10.8 million per year,” Reitz said.

Of the $10,874,000 total, $6,015,280 goes to debt service, $1,500,000 is deposited into the capital reserve budget, and $3,358,720 goes to support operating expenses, Reitz said.

“Debt service (is the) annual payment on the debt we owe for the construction,” Reitz said.

Out of the project’s $100 million budget, $75 million went directly toward construction of the building, and the other $25 million was used for “ancillary expenses,” Cynthia Constanzo, executive director of UConn Recreation, said. Those expenses include furniture, equipment, computers and support materials.

“(The) deposit into (the) capital reserve budget (is) money set aside for maintenance and repairs, as needed over the life of the facility,” Reitz said.

The capital reserve fund will be used over time to make repairs on the center, Constanzo said.

“There will be a reserve fund held so that when the pool filters need to be repaired, we have that money,” Constanzo explained.

The university will work to appropriately spend the reserve fund money and communicate correctly to student groups, Constanzo said.

“This is a student fee, so we want to be very transparent,” Constanzo said.

Reitz said that the mandatory fee will amount to $500 per year for undergraduate students, and $400 per year for graduates.

Constanzo said it is important to keep in mind that the costs of running the facility increase with having a larger center. She said staffing and student employment will increase by 25 percent to appropriately staff the new building.

The current rec center sees roughly 3,000 people each day, Constanzo said. One goal for the new facility was to increase traffic and turn away fewer students, especially when the current fitness classes fill up.

“(We) addressed many areas of deficiency to address student needs,” Constanzo said. “I think that we created the recreation center that’s exclusively for recreation purposes and club sports.”

UConn currently has 39 competitive club teams, Constanzo said. Many of the features of the new building were motivated by the need for better practice times for club sports. With only one pool at the current center, teams must squeeze their practices into the only times available —

such as 9 p.m. practice, she said.

Constanzo said the two new pools are intended to be used for recreation as well. In addition to general swimming access, there is space to offer classes for paddleboard yoga, kayaking and general programming.

“The goal was that this rec center would be built for the general students and for recreational purposes, but not for intercollegiate competitions and practices,” Constanzo said.

During the initial planning stage for the new center, the USG student senate asked for a few basic things in order to get behind the plan, Constanzo said.

“There was no requirement for a student referendum...but the Board of Trustees wouldn’t support the fee...unless the students supported it,” Constanzo said.

Constanzo said the students who were part of the process at the time were truly invested, and knew they were making a conscious decision to benefit future students.

As for the old recreation center, Constanzo said no final decision has been made as to how the space will be reappropriated. She said it is likely some spaces will continue to operate.

“We’re hoping to sell memberships to people in the UConn community,” Constanzo said.

Constanzo said that the recreation center membership should be available for purchase by faculty, staff and their partners, because they are an important part of the university community.

Constanzo said the recreation center staff is still waiting for the final approval from university administration as to what that fee will be.

“We feel that generating additional revenues has the potential to make our programs even better,” Constanzo said.

Under current operations, every single dollar that comes in from guest fees, outdoor center rentals, bikes and other rentals is reinvested directly to improve the rec center programs, Constanzo said.

“That’s spending students’ money wisely,” Constanzo said.


Natalie Baliker is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at natalie.baliker@uconn.edu .