Forget the next 50 years, let’s focus on 2005

Back in November in this very same space, the Northern Light made a plea to the UAA administration to start work on a new sports and recreation facility. We reported that, despite no immediate plans to build the desperately needed new facility, there was an immediate plan to expand the existing Wells Fargo Sports Complex this spring. We didn’t exactly cheer for this Band-Aid solution but we knew that it was a step in the right direction.

In a state full of outdoor enthusiasts, students buzzed with the news of a climbing tower on campus. They looked forward to a fitness area that wasn’t formerly a racquetball court.

Now comes the news that this project has been shelved until 2006 due to a lack of funding.

Well, that stinks for all of us students. It also stinks for the five women’s sports teams crammed into two locker rooms, a situation that is flirting with breaking NCAA rules on equality. Don’t forget about the physical education faculty that doesn’t even have offices in the gym where the majority of its classes are taught.

As it is, we should salute Dennis Stauffer, UAA’s director of recreational sports, for staying sane while scheduling PE classes, Seawolf athletic practices and student recreation time in a building that should probably only house one of the three.

In 1994 a UAA committee, chaired by Stauffer, produced a report that stated why the university needed a new sports and recreation facility. Numbers were crunched, land plotted out and maps drawn. The committee proposed a $52 million sports facility situated behind the Arts Building on UAA land along Northern Lights Boulevard. They hoped it would be finished by 1999 if not sooner.

We all know that didn’t even come close to happening.

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It’s been 11 years since the study took place and we’re still using a facility deemed inadequate when Bill Clinton was serving his first term as president. The UAA enrollment has grown by more than 6,000 students since 1994. The residence halls were built putting a larger student population on campus with no place to exercise during long Anchorage winters.

Here’s to hoping that Chancellor Elaine Maimon, who we recognize has only been on the job since August, will make it a priority to fix the problems the current facility causes for the students, UAA athletics and the PE department. We know she has been touting how exciting the next 50 years at UAA will be because we’ve seen the quick-cut TV commercials that told us so. Why not start the next 50 years off with a bang and get a new facility built within the next five years?

We guarantee that a sparkling new gym will attract more new students than quick-cut TV commercials ever will. And, yes, we do know that a new sports complex generally costs about $50 million more than a TV commercial.

The fact that gets under our skin the most is that UAF solved its recreation problem in the early 1990s with the construction of its Student Recreation Center. The impressive building is everything that a college student could want and was built through a bond that is paid via a flat $75 fee that all students pay along with their recreation fee.

If Fairbanks could do it, why can’t we?

In the meantime, don’t avoid the sports complex. That isn’t the answer. We should expose the problem by using the facility more. Every time the schedule or overcrowding doesn’t allow you to lift weights, file a complaint.

When the schedule stops you from working out or playing basketball, call or e-mail Chancellor Maimon and University President Mark Hamilton to complain. Ditto for members of the University of Alaska Board of Regents. Contact your state senator or representative. Let everyone know what the UAA students want and need.

Let them know we don’t want to think about the next 50 years until they look back on the last 10 years that UAA students have been saddled with an inadequate recreation facility.