Southern Oregon University's sports and fitness facilities are in for a big lift.
A new, roughly 50,000-square-foot recreation center will house the university's thriving Outdoor Program, a new rock-climbing wall, and new fitness and weight rooms. The project also will include a new track and artificial turf field for Raider Stadium, along with possible upgrades to aging McNeal Pavilion.
Nothing is set in concrete concerning the design of the recreation center or the type of field turf, and the university hasn't hired an architect to develop final renderings, but last year's conceptual design plans for the recreation center show a two-story, concrete and steel facility attached to the east side of McNeal Pavilion.
"The facilities right now are good for the athletic program. Lots of free weights, racks, but as far as encompassing the whole student body, the fitness facility is a little lacking there," said SOU senior Derek Rottenberg, who wrestled for the Raiders and now helps coach the team.
"We've got all the basics, but it doesn't go much further than that," he said.
On Friday afternoon, Rottenberg was working on his cardio and lifting weights in the school's Daniel Meyer Fitness Center. The 9,000-square-foot, two-floor facility is tucked away from the rest of campus beneath the home grandstands at Raider Stadium.
Rottenberg, who was throwing 65-pound dumbbells over his head, won't be here to enjoy the new facilities as a student, but he sees the improvements as a positive thing for those who will be at the school, he said.
"I know a lot of students feel intimidated to come in and work out in such a small space; they don't want to work out right next to some guy lifting 300 pounds," Rottenberg said.
In 2012, students at SOU voted to accept a $95 fee increase to help fund the project, excluding the pavilion upgrades, to the sum of about $20 million, according to Oregon University System budget reports.
The $95-per-term fee will be in addition to the students' $301 incidental fees, but will be collected only while the project is under construction, said Tim Robitz, the school's housing director.
Conceptual designs were used to give students and the Oregon Legislature, which approved OUS's operating budget in June, a clear idea of the project's scope, Robitz said.
The recreation center may also house locker rooms and multipurpose gyms, according to those designs.
During its upcoming February session, the Legislature will have the opportunity to approve between $15 million and $20 million of the deferred maintenance funding within the OUS budget for seismic renovation and other upgrades to McNeal Pavilion, said Robitz. The university requested that OUS consider renovation of the building a high priority, he said.
"If the Legislature does that, there would be some value of savings to combining the two projects ... one architect, one contractor," Robitz said.
According to an OUS capital budget report on its 2013-15 spending, McNeal Pavilion "has extensive deferred maintenance and seismic upgrades needed to ensure the facility's continued use. ... The entire facility is in poor, deteriorating condition."
The university doesn't have a formal timeline for the process, but if everything fell into place, Robitz said, renovation of the track and field would begin by December and be complete before graduation on June 14.
During the upcoming fall term, students will be asked to weigh in on the design of the field turf and recreation center, Robitz said, adding the new turf at Raider Stadium will be expanded to accommodate women's soccer, lacrosse, and the university's club and intramural sports teams.
Robitz expects the university to finalize the recreation center's design from March through June, and construction could begin as early as August. He expects the university to hire an architect for the project no later than February.
"I can't wait ... this place sucks," said Brittney Pressey, a sophomore, who used the fitness center a few times a week during her freshman year at SOU.
"I use it quite a bit ... there just is not enough stuff, and a lot of it is broken."
Pressey mostly sticks to the cardio equipment on the second floor of the fitness center, she said.
Senior Kiara Moore, a power forward on the SOU women's basketball team, said she is sad she'll miss out on the new upgrades, especially after working out for the last four years in the current dim and stagnant weight room.
"It's cramped; you're always too close to someone," she said. "I think the new place will be a good thing. All the buildings that they are doing now will be good for the students."
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.