Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center.jpg

Opinion columnist Brett Knepper argues that it was irresponsible for the Ambler Recreation Center to stay open after the KU campus closed. 

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the initiative was named "Rock the Rec." It is called "Rock Chalk Rec."

Student Senate Chief of Staff Zach Thomason and Student Body Vice President Seth Wingerter unveiled their “Rock Chalk Rec” campaign initiative to expand the student recreation center on Thursday, Feb. 13 at the Ambler Student Recreation Center.

The initiative is intended to inform students of the referendum in hopes of getting enough signatures to put the referendum on the Student Senate ballot in the spring. If they reach 1,300 signatures, students will vote on whether or not they want to increase student fees by $26 to expand the rec center.

The expansion will move forward with phase three of a plan originally voted on by students in 1999 to expand the recreation center in four phases. Phase three will add about 50,000 square feet to the center and cost around $15-20 million to complete.

Thomason said the $26 increase in student fees is necessary.

“The recreation center is one of the most used student services, it's really only matched of use by the buses and the union, so it's a vital operation for this campus,” Thomason said.

Since the recreation center is used heavily by the student body, Wingerter said an expansion is needed to make room for more students.

“I hear everyone around me always complaining about how cramped it is in here … I just see that we’re not serving students well enough,” Wingerter said.

The expansion will nearly double the size of the weight room, add studio space and add an indoor turf field including a ramp that would lead on to the track. The track would also be expanded to a full quarter of a mile, Thomason said.

Other improvements include monkey bars, tires, a yoga terrace, a change in the cardio configuration in the center’s upper level and a renovation to the rock wall which was added in phase one. Phase one was completed in 2003.

A pool was part of the third phase of the student recreation center expansion, but will be pushed back to a later date after surveys carried out by both the recreation center and Student Senate found that students considered the pool as less important for the recreation center.

“If we were to do the pool first, it would add a lot of dollars to the cost that wouldn’t be there otherwise,” Thomason said.

The initiative only needs 1,300 signatures to get on the ballot, but Wingerter and Thomason are looking for 2,500. Student approval is important to Thomason and Wingerter, which is why they said the measure is being put to a referendum.

“We didn’t feel comfortable whatsoever just pushing this through Student Senate, so we realized this needed to be a student vote,” Wingerter said.

If the referendum passes, construction will begin around a year after it passes and will tentatively be done by spring 2023, Wingerter said.

—Edited by Brianna Wessling