Plans To Construct $50 Million Student Recreation Center at UMass Amherst Move Forward

AMHERST, Mass. - Plans for a $50 million student recreation center have been revived and a building site has been identified, Chancellor John V. Lombardi has reported.

Lombardi told the Faculty Senate recently that students agreed to fee increases several years ago to help pay for the facility, but the state’s budget crisis put the project on hold. “It’s time to put that back on track,” he said.

As an initial step, the campus has commissioned some design proposals, he said.

Considered by many schools to be key to enhancing student life and admissions efforts, recreation centers have been built across the country in recent years. Surveys conducted on campus as far back as 1999 showed strong demand for a facility that would house fitness equipment and other recreational activities.

Lombardi said the $50 million price tag would not cover construction of a swimming pool or rock-climbing wall, but would support construction of a center that would have a fitness and exercise area, open gym space for basketball, volleyball and similar activities, a running track and handball courts - the top priorities identified in the student surveys.

Preliminary plans call for a three-floor structure on the site of the old stucco barn on the east side of Commonwealth Avenue, opposite the Mullins Center. The site, he said, is a10-minute walk from nearly all residence halls, another key element favored by students.

The building location will also allow expansion if additional funds become available, Lombardi said.

Construction of a new facility is also preferable to expanding Boyden Gym, he said, because of the inevitable competing demands of intercollegiate athletics and campus recreation programs. “This will make sure the student recreation center is not a student-athlete training center,” he said.