Concurring: Nat the Right MovePosted: April 5, 2010
My colleague, Adam, has pointed out a few reasons why the NatUp proposal just isn’t the best for campus. He points out spiraling costs in non-allocable segregated fees and poor planning on the part of raising other revenues. While these are some good points, I think there are other reasons to oppose the renovation of the Natatorium.
First, it is important to note that while UW currently has three separate recreational facilities in the SERF, the NAT, and the largely under-utilized SHELL. Rec sports has consistently used two things as selling points for the new renovations. First, usage of the rec facilities has increased dramatically over the last ten years while enrollment has stayed almost constant. Second, Madison lags behind other Big Ten (and even UW) schools in the construction of state-of-the-art rec facilities, including Ohio State’s fancy new building.
These, in my mind, are valid reasons to consider building a rec facility, and despite increasing costs in seg fees, I actually find them reason alone to consider expanding on our rec sports program. Segregated fee increases, after all, are meant to accommodate changing student needs.
Still, the NAT is not the place to do these renovations. I am not convinced that the expanded Nat will pull students out of the already crowded SERF. Even if it did, I have a hard time believing that it could counter the large amounts of increases to Southeast dorms; the University has a master plan that includes rebuilding of Gordon commons, Witte and Sellery, while the lakeshore dorms remain largely stagnant in population (although rebuilt or renovated.)
The answer to our problem lies in the SERF. Being a 30 year old building already, the SERF is due for an overhaul, but with lots of buildings around it and not enough structural stability to build up, Rec Sports would have no choice but to demolish it and start over. I actually think this is a good idea.
Now before you stop reading, hear me out.
The NatUp proposal is shortsighted. Even if the current proposal goes through, the SERF will need to be renovated in the near future. The Nat won’t be able to accommodate the increases in demand, and the SERF will undergo construction in probably ten to fifteen years. At that time, we will have not one, but two rec building projects on our hands. I would rather have one state-of-the-art rec facility than two half-state-of-the-art facilities.
Will it cost more? Yes, but it will likely be cheaper than having two projects. Will it cause some problems when the SERF is gone for a year and a half? Yes, but that logic would stop all building/renovation projects. Will it look damn cool to have a fully awesome SERF right in the downtown campus? Hell yes.
The NatUp proposal fails to accommodate for increases in student demand, and killing the project is the best way to send that message. I think that there is a need for a new facility, but the SERF is a far more viable option even if it is more costly in the immediate.