After six years of planning, Kansas University's new Student Recreation Fitness Center finally is in the starting blocks.
Construction crews Monday began work on the $17 million, 98,000-square-foot facility. The official groundbreaking is set for 4 p.m. April 12.
The center will give students a workout facility open 18 hours a day. Currently, they can use the Robinson Center, but it is open to students only when classes aren't using the facilities.
"The overall win-win is students will have access all day long," said Mary Chappell, director of recreation services.
The center will be built south of Watkins Student Health Center and should be open in July 2003. It will include a 15,000-square-foot area for cardiovascular fitness machines and free weights, a 1/7-mile suspended track, a 45-foot rock-climbing wall, two racquetball courts and space for recreation club offices.
The gymnasium will have four college-sized basketball courts that also will have volleyball nets.
The facility will include a snack bar area and lounge.
"It sounds like we're getting a state-of-the art facility," Chappell said. "It's the standard, not the exception."
KU students turned down a proposal for a recreation facility in a 1995 election. Three years later, they overwhelmingly approved the proposal.
The 1998 referendum authorized an additional $62 in student fees to pay for the facility during the next 15 years. The fees were phased in beginning fall 2000.
Former students who paid the fee can use the facility for the length of time they paid into the fund. Chappell said there are no plans to open the center to the public.
"Our goal is not to compete with other agencies," she said. "Our goal is to serve our students."
The Robinson Center will continue to be used for classes and research in the health, sport and exercise science department.
Chappell said the Student Recreation Fitness Center will fit the expectations of incoming students, many of whom belonged to health clubs in their hometowns.
"I don't think wanting a healthy lifestyle is going to go away," she said.