NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Ah, university years, a time for learning, conversations about Plato and budding political zeal, and all while lounging on a beach chair at the school’s new state-of-the-art multi-million dollar spa facility. The latest and greatest in recreational centers seem to be a main draw for many colleges and universities, which have spent millions of dollars in the past few years upgrading those facilities. And it's no surprise, with the cost of a four-year college education now surpassing $100,000 at private universities, and close to $80,000 for public school. Though it might surprise you that students already taking on a mountain of debt are voting in droves to pay for these super-gyms through increased student fees.
According to Recreation Management, a publisher devoted to fitness industry trends, 54.6% of colleges and universities that responded to its 2012 survey were planning on renovating or building new facilities within the next few years.
On average, colleges plan to spend $7,605,000 on such facilities, plans which indicate a willingness to spend 80% more on their campus "Club Meds" than the general Recreation Management fitness industry survey population, which reports an average construction budget of $4,225,000.
A majority of the survey respondents from higher education, 59.5%, said they represented public institutions, and 32.6% represented private schools.
Many of these recreational centers are paid for and maintained through student fees/memberships, private/public partnerships and private donations. In many cases, students were asked to vote on referendums to approve the upgrades and the resulting adjustment to student fees.
Mainstreet compiled a list of some of the colleges and universities that have put a lot of weight into campus recreational facilities within the past three years:
University of Iowa -- This college campus opened its new recreational center in 2010. The 20,000 square foot, three-level building includes a 52 ½ foot climbing wall, a 1/9 mile jogging track, two basketball/volleyball courts, 1 multi-activity gym, a 50-meter competitive swimming pool, an 18-foot deep diving well, a leisure swimming pool, 1 multi-activity gym and a café that features fruit smoothies.
Cost: $69 million
Purdue University -- In 2010, Purdue University began renovation on its France A. Cordova Recreational Sports Center. The new center, which is scheduled to be unveiled this fall, will include 338,000 square feet of recreation, which doesn’t include the additional adjacent aquatic center or 33,000 square feet at the GSF Student Indoor Turf Activity Center. Students here will also have both climbing and bouldering walls, upgrades to the existing racquetball courts and gym space. Additional wellness space, common space, locker rooms, and food and dining areas are included in the upgrade.
Cost: $98 million
University of Hawaii at Menoa -- In 2004, the University of Hawaii at Menoa began planning for a new two-level, 56,000 square foot recreational center on the Diamond Head side of the campus. The center, which is scheduled to open late 2012 or early 2013, will include a multi-sport gymnasium, fitness center, multi-purpose studios, a jogging track, and locker and shower rooms. It is also expected to receive a Gold LEED certification for sustainability.
Cost: $38 million
University of Maine -- The University of Maine opened its 87,000 square foot New Balance Fitness Center in the fall of 2011. The building is Silver LEED certified for its sustainable construction and includes a fitness center, indoor tracks, three basketball/volleyball courts, a leisure pool that includes a vortex current and a lounge and juice bar area, among other amenities. New Balance received its name on the building when it gifted the center $5 million of the $25 million total cost.
Arizona State University -- Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus just recently broke ground in partnership with the local YMCA for a new recreation center to open in 2013. The new facility will house the exercise and wellness academic program for the school. It will have a large gymnasium, a weight room, an indoor track, multi-purpose space, student lounge, bike co-op, locker rooms and a rooftop leisure pool. The project is one of four the school has embarked on in the past several years constructing or renovating recreational facilities. Students voted for the upgrades and the projects are paid for by increasing student membership fees.
Cost: $25 million
University of Colorado at Boulder -- Climbing walls are one of the top amenities Recreation Management found in its survey for new facilities and the University of Colorado at Boulder is including one in its renovation and expansion project. The project will expand the existing facilities by 30% and also include renovating the ice rink, two existing gyms and doubling the multi-purpose fitness space. The recreational center is scheduled to open in fall 2013.
Cost: $63.5 million
Auburn University -- The new 240,000 square foot Recreation and Wellness Center at Auburn University will be a state of the art LEED certified project. The university began construction in 2011. The facility will include a golf simulator room, game room, 6 multi-purpose courts, rock climbing wall, 1/3 mile indoor track and a leisure pool. The project is scheduled to be concluded in April 2013.
Cost: $50 million
Stony Brook University -- This 90,000 square foot facility has been in the planning stages at least since 2006. Construction was delayed due to some remediation that had to occur on the construction site, but the facility is scheduled to open this fall. The facility will include a multipurpose indoor arena, free weights, cardio machines, dance aerobics studios and a three court gymnasium.
Cost: $37.5 million
Vanderbilt University -- In the early planning stages, the new recreational facility at Vanderbilt does not have a construction timeline or cost estimate as of yet. Planners do hope that the facility will include a new bowling alley and expanding the weight training and cardiovascular areas. The university is also proposing a new multipurpose facility that would include an indoor practice field.
Utah State University -- Tentatively named the Aggie Recreation Center, fees to support this facility were approved by students in the spring. The design phase of the project isn’t scheduled to begin until next year, with construction scheduled to commence in 2014 with a projected completion in 2015.
--By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell