KU recreation services reducing hours, programming this fall

In this file photo from January 2013, University of Kansas student Morgan Cross works out at the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center on the KU campus.

Students returning to campus this fall may have noticed a few changes to the recreation services offered by the University of Kansas.

KU Recreation Services has had to reduce hours, cut programming (including several intramural sports teams) and bypass equipment upgrades because of a KU Student Senate decision made last spring. At that time, Student Senate approved less than half the amount in fee hikes Recreation Services said was necessary to absorb rising costs across its programming.

The changes have been in effect since July 1 but are becoming apparent to more and more students as the campus settles into the 2017 fall semester, said Jason Krone, director of KU Recreation Services.

“I’d say for those, particularly (regarding) the hours of the programs, who are affected by these changes, they’ve been disappointed, but they’ve also been curious as to why these changes have been made,” Krone said. “Many have also asked how they can help, how to help in the future and restoring these changes.”

During last spring’s student fee review, leaders with KU Recreation Services presented KU Student Senate with three funding options for the 2017-2018 school year. Student senators could choose no increase in student fees, a $3.50 increase or an $8 increase per student per semester.

The last option, Krone said, would have allowed KU Recreation Services to keep facilities and programs running properly. Instead, the fee hike leveled out to $3.75, after a $4 increase in Recreation Services’ operations fee and a 25-cent decrease from the facilities maintenance fee, forcing Krone and his colleagues to make cuts across several areas, he said.

Krone said a more substantial fee increase was needed to absorb rising costs across several areas, including equipment upgrades, utilities, maintenance repairs to facilities. Fees have not increased since 2003, when KU’s Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center first opened.

One of the more noticeable changes is the reduction in hours at Ambler, KU’s primary rec facility. Ambler will now close one hour early on Fridays and Saturdays, opening three hours later than usual (noon, as opposed to 9 a.m.) on Saturdays.

The rec center probably hosts somewhere around 600,000 people students, faculty and staff annually, Krone said, with up to 4,000 people passing through on an especially busy day.

As part of the changes, KU Student Recreation Services has also eliminated several intramural sports teams, magazine subscription renewals and an entire marketing budget. Reductions include the availability of work hours for student staff, the number and length of KU Fit Group Fitness classes and a diminished Faculty and Staff Wellness budget.

“Every single program had to make those choices. What we tried to do is make the choices that would least impact students,” Krone said. “So, that’s why we made the decision to open a little bit later in the morning, and also to close a bit earlier in the evening …those are all based on our turnstile numbers.”

Though Recreation Services has had to reduce the availability of work hours, the cuts haven’t resulted in any layoffs, Krone said.

In the meantime, Recreation Services will start developing a budget proposal in December for the upcoming school year. The next fee review hearings will take place in February, Krone said.

Students interested in restoring the recent cuts are encouraged to work with the university’s recreation advisory board, a student panel that offers input on Recreation Services programming.

Ultimately, Krone said, the decision lies with KU Student Senate.

“There’s a world of wellness and fitness out there, and there are a lot of things that we can’t offer,” Krone said. “It’s us finding that right mix of funding level and what we can do with that funding level.”

“We know students want to maintain those fees as best they can,” he added, “And so, they have to make the decision as to what’s best for them.”