Archive for Sunday, August 15, 1999


August 15, 1999


If everything falls into place, a new recreation complex on the Kansas University campus will open in fall 2001.

When Kansas University welcomed Robinson Center on campus in 1969, the swimming pool, three racquetball courts and two gyms were enough to satisfy students and faculty in the pre-fitness craze days.

In 1981, the university expanded the center, adding a weight/cardio-vascular area, another pool, 12 more racquetball courts, four gyms and a rock-climbing wall.

"When you build something in 1969, obviously the participation isn't going to be as high, because we went through a fitness trend," said Mary Chappell, director of recreation services at KU.

"We're going through another fitness phase right now," Chappell said. "I think we've seen that people are more attuned to their bodies. They're more aware of what it takes to keep their body in shape," she said. "There's also the social aspect of doing things together, whether you're from a residence hall, sorority or fraternity."

Students passed a measure this spring that supports the construction of a free-standing athletics facility, and Chappell said if KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway and the Kansas Board of Regents approve the plan, it could open in fall 2001.

Although final figures and plans aren't approved, Chappell said the construction will cost an estimated $16 million, to be paid for by students through a $49 semester fee after the facility opens. A site hasn't been chosen, but 6.5 acres south of Watkins Health Center (formerly used for intramural sports) is a prime candidate, Chappell said.

"The major step was seeing that this is what the students wanted, and they voted in favor of it," she said.

The vote results are in direct contrast to a 1996 measure for a $21 million recreation facility on KU's West Campus. The students shot that idea down with a margin of 70 percent in favor and 30 percent against; this spring's vote totals were the opposite.

"That's a pretty clear message," Chappell said.

One of the main problems, she said, is that Robinson Center is restricted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is used mainly for classes during the day. Faculty are allowed to use the facility during the noon hour, but students must wait until after 5 p.m. A new facility would be open to students 18 hours a day.

If approved, the new facility would have 15,000 square feet dedicated to free weights and cardio-vascular equipment, compared to the 5,000 square feet at Robinson. A new indoor suspended jogging track would also be included, along with a rock-climbing wall.

"We didn't put a pool in the plans because we want it close enough to Robinson that they can use one there," Chappell said. "It's a very basic beginning facility, but it would be very easy to add onto it, if the students chose to do so."

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is

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