Aquatic center to have palms, deck, whirlpool and waterproof classroom

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Southeast regents are expected to approve the design on Thursday.

Southeast Missouri State University plans to move ahead with an aquatic center that includes an irregularly shaped recreational pool complete with potted palm trees.

Students will be able to do more than splash around under a conceptual design that the board of regents is expected to approve Thursday. They will have an opportunity to get some exercise in a six-lane, 25-yard lap pool or relax in a whirlpool.

The regents will meet at 9:30 a.m. in the University Center Ballroom.

The aquatic center will include an outside deck where students can work on their tan.

The 28,000-square-foot addition to the Student Recreation Center also will include locker rooms including a separate changing area for families, a storage area and a classroom that can be used for aquatic classes.

The classroom will feature plastic furniture and a drain in the floor. That way students taking aquatic classes can go right from the pool to the classroom.

"We don't have to worry about getting the floor wet," said Lori Lynn, director of Campus Life, which includes operation of the Student Recreation Center and recreational sports.

All of this will cost at least $7.8 million and could cost as much as $8.3 million, said university president Dr. Ken Dobbins.

Students ultimately would pay for it. The university plans to issue bonds to finance the project. The bonds then would be retired with student fees.

Student government leaders championed the project and proposed that students pay for it.

The regents in April voted to raise student general fees by $2 a credit hour for each of the next five school years -- starting this fall semester -- to fund construction of an aquatic center, provide more money for athletics and fund weekend and evening activities for students.

As a result, students will pay $20.70 a credit hour in general fees by fall 2009, up from last semester's $10.70 a credit hour.

When fully implemented, the fee increases are expected to generate nearly $2 million in added revenue annually, school officials said this spring.

Lynn said the permanent fee also would pay the annual cost of operating the center, estimated at about $400,000 a year. Operating cost include heating and cooling, custodial costs and staffing.

Student lifeguards

The center will be manned from two to four lifeguards, she said. "We will hire college students who will be trained," Lynn said.

The aquatic center will operate year-round, she said.

It will be adjoining to the existing Student Recreation Center on the northwest corner. But there won't be a separate entrance. Students will have to use the main entrance to the recreation center.

A separate entrance would have added to operating costs because more staff would have been needed, Lynn said.

"We are trying to keep our operational costs under control," she said.

Until three years ago, Southeast operated a traditional swimming pool in Parker Hall. But Dobbins said it was antiquated and in need of costly repairs.

"We couldn't keep it up to health standards," he said.

In addition, few students used the pool. It wasn't close to the Student Recreation Center, which has become the center of campus recreation in the evenings, Dobbins said.

The new center is designed to meet student needs, officials said.

The potted palms are a special kind which can survive indoors in an aquatic center environment, Lynn said.

Student leaders, who were consulted on the design, wanted an aquatic center that would have a tropical look to it.

A glass wall on the curved north side of the addition will give students a view of the outdoors.

"The architecture is going to be really neat," said Adam Hanna of Sparta, Ill., president of Southeast's student government.

The lap pool will be situated at a slightly higher level than the recreational pool.

The center will serve both recreational swimmers and those who want to swim laps, he said.

Said Hanna, "It is a lot more than a pool."

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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