It is always so tempting to be negative with the news. It’s easy to tear things down, even when it is hard to actually find an alternative. This was exactly the case with recent news around the newly-built recreation center. The University of Connecticut unveiled new fees for students alongside the building itself.
As everyone already knows, they are high. Undergraduate students will find on their fee bill a new charge of $500 for the next 30 years. And with this, tensions have become similarly high, with many students upset at the building and its obscene costs. In response to this, the university has announced what exactly the reported $10 million annual income is going to.
The titles alone sound reasonable: A little under two thirds of the money goes directly to paying off the construction of the building, another third goes to operating expenses and the rest goes for replacement and rainy-day funds for the rec center specifically. And so, as much as it pains to say this, it seems that the $500 yearly tax on students may be justified.
Paying off the construction debt is clear. This is calculable; we know from this that over $180 million will be paid for the $100 million project. While those figures hurt to hear, this is reasonable enough for a debt paid off over 30 years.
Three million dollars every year for operating expenses also makes sense. There are plenty of operation costs, from the various supplies to the variety of staff needed for the center. To this end, the values needed also make sense.
The “capital reserve fund,” a rainy-day budget meant to pay for any broken machinery and building repairs, feels a bit expensive—will over $45 million in damages really be created over its life?—but UConn has already promised itself to transparency in using this money. As long as they honor that commitment, even this tax is reasonable.
At the end of the day, it’s still a tough pill to swallow. The rec center looks beautiful, but $500 for about an 8-month gym membership is a pretty anomalous cost. For all the whining that has been done, though, it seems that cost is justified for the size and scope of this project. The only question now, then, is whether the rec center in practice will be everything it has to be promised.