RIMAC Annex Center of Funding Debate

    The firm Soltek Pacific began construction of the new RIMAC Annex this month. The building will include a cafe with a “healthy living” theme, indoor and outdoor terraced seating and a conference room. (Courtesy of Bauer and Wiley)

    Construction of RIMAC Annex, the university’s new 14,000 sq.
    ft., $10-million dining and retail facility, is underway this month. The
    building, funded entirely by student recreational fees, will be be situated
    just north of RIMAC Arena and house a Peet’s Coffee, a cafe, a conference room
    and a convenience store, in addition to several outdoor seating areas.

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    University officials have expressed excitement about the
    Annex, calling the new facility a much-needed addition to the campus’ northern
    areas.

    “We got a lot of support for the notion of having a facility
    for students as kind of a central gathering spot on north campus, because it is
    so far away from the Price Center
    and the Student Center
    that this would be a good hub of student activity,” Sports Facilities Director
    Donald E. Chadwick said. “Sometimes there’s no better way to do that than with food.”

    However, not everyone is satisfied with the project. Dana
    Dahlstrom, a former Athletics, Recreation and Sports Facilities Advisory Board
    student representative, raised concerns over the alleged mishandling of student
    fees linked to construction of the new facility. Dahlstrom said that the
    administration’s use of student recreational fees to fund the project was out
    of line, especially because the new building will contain no recreational
    facilities.

    “By the admission of administrators, the RIMAC Annex is not
    a recreational facility, and is instead intended to serve the new business
    school and residential facilities in north campus,” Dahlstrom said in an
    e-mail. “It is inappropriate to spend students’ recreational facility fees to
    construct or maintain such a building.”

    Dahlstrom said that student input regarding the planning and
    design of the Annex was largely ignored by campus officials. He referred
    specifically to two surveys distributed last year by the A.S. Council and the
    Graduate Student Association that asked students to rank their priorities for
    various proposed features of the Annex. Dahlstrom said that although the survey
    found a large student interest in new recreational facilities, the
    administration did little to accommodate these preferences.

    “I think [the administration’s] position from the beginning
    was that they didn’t see the point in asking students’ opinions,” Dahlstrom
    said. “They didn’t understand why we wanted to [consult the survey]. They
    basically said, ‘Look, we’ve already decided what’s going in the building, so
    this isn’t an issue that we want student input on.’ That’s basically what they
    told us when we proposed to take the vote.”

    Responding to the allegations, Chadwick said that the
    administration had taken the surveys into consideration, going so far as to
    change aspects of the internal design of the Annex in response to the
    preferences indicated by students’ answers.

    “The survey was a very beneficial instrument and provided
    tremendous feedback on student interests,” Chadwick said. “The results helped
    to shape the desired theme and environment for the Annex.”

    In defense of the administration’s usage of student
    recreational fees to fund the Annex, Chadwick said that many college campuses
    across the country are undertaking similar measures.

    “Within the last few years there’s been kind of a melding
    almost of student union and recreational facilities throughout the country,”
    Chadwick said. “This is happening more and more as campuses evolve over time.
    In other words, you’re finding in rec centers they’re combining a lot of
    conference rooms and retail facilities when they’re building the new
    facilities. And similarly, the student unions are more frequently incorporating
    components that had more traditionally been in rec centers, like cardio centers
    and workout areas.”

    The project is slated for completion by spring 2009.

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