UConn board to vote on student fee increase for new recreation center

The University of Connecticut’s governing board is expected to vote in November to further raise the cost of attending the state’s flagship university in order to pay for a new recreation center.

Students are already slated to pay $1,112 more by 2016 than they are paying this year to cover the cost of hiring dozens more faculty, but a spokeswoman for the university said this week that the Board of Trustees is expected to vote in November to raise the cost by another $488. If approved, students will begin paying the new fee when the recreation center is slated to open, which is projected to be in 2016.

These increases mean students attending the Storrs campus will be required to pay $1,600 more a year to attend UConn — a 13.3 percent, two-year increase. 

The state had provided $31 million for “recreational” purposes in an omnibus construction plan for UConn nearly a decade ago. But university officials back then chose to use that money to pay for an indoor practice facility for the varsity football team.

Given that earlier decision, and given that there’s nothing left of that allocation, UConn’s new president, Susan Herbst, has said she would not ask the state to pick up the cost of a new rec center.

“We will absolutely not put this on taxpayers… There is just no way,” she said in the spring.

After spending the summer studying rec centers at universities in several states, administration officials envision a facility that would feature:

  • A weights and fitness area;
  • A large-scale gymnasium with three to five basketball courts and, possibly, an elevated track;
  • A swimming pool;
  • Several multipurpose rooms to accommodate the more than 1,200 UConn students involved in club sports; 
  • Other courts for sports such as field hockey and indoor soccer.

Herbst’s staff says that a 203,000-square-foot center is preferred, but they also outlined an option for 160,000- square-foot facility.

The larger facility was estimated to cost $101 million to build and $10.1 million a year to operate. The projected increase in yearly activity fees was $488 for undergraduates and $361 for graduate students, faculty and other staff. 

The smaller option was priced at $83.2 million to build with an annual operating cost of $8.5 million. Projected fee hikes included $412 per year for undergraduates, and $305 for undergraduates, faculty and other staff.

Herbst’s deputy chief of staff, Michael Kirk, told the UConn student newspaper that officials are considering adding a “grandfather clause,” so that no student currently attending the school would be required to pay the new fee if they are still enrolled in 2016.