Archive for Thursday, February 29, 1996

KU RECREATION CENTER PROPOSAL CRUMBLES

February 29, 1996

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KU students block a proposal for a new campus recreation center.

Students at Kansas University on Wednesday spiked a plan to build a $21.5 million recreation complex on West Campus.

The referendum failed 983-2,307. A simple majority was required to deep-six the project.

Under the proposal, students would have paid construction costs and bond debt on a 132,000-square-foot center on KU Endowment Association property at 23rd and Iowa streets. It was to open in 1999.

The recreational services fee for KU students is $26 a year. Students could have replaced Robinson Center by raising the annual fee to $180 -- a 600 percent increase. The fee would have been collected for 25 years.

"I knew, if people were educated, they wouldn't find it appealing," said Jason Fizell, a Lawrence junior who led a referendum opposition group.

He said students sent a clear message the proposal backed by KU's Recreational Services was unacceptable. He said students might be willing to consider a modest project, perhaps renovation of Robinson.

Mary Chappell, director of Recreational Services, said she was disappointed by the outcome.

"We didn't realize we'd have such an overwhelming vote like that," she said.

Chappell said the verdict left unaddressed documented student demand for more access to gymnasiums, weight rooms, a running track and other facilities that wouldn't be shared with KU academic departments.

An effort will be made to determine whether students voted against more recreational services or simply the proposed fee.

"We'll have to take the pulse," Chappell said.

Despite opportunities to vote at five campus locations Tuesday and Wednesday, only 15 percent of 21,836 eligible students cast ballots.

On Wednesday, Olathe junior Derek Swords sat 10 yards from a ballot box in the Kansas Union. He turned out to be among the majority in this contest. He didn't vote.

"I'm concerned with the now rather than the future," he said.

The referendum generated sharp opinion among some.

"An institution the size and quality of KU needs a quality rec center ... to provide the best student life possible," said Student Body President Kim Cocks, who threw her support behind the proposal.

Chicago junior John Fischer neutralized her position by voting no. He said allocation of more student fees for recreation was a waste. It's better for students to invest in library or computer facilities, he said.

"People who can afford it should support Lawrence fitness businesses, anyway," Fischer said.

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