GVSU growth causes overcrowded recreational facilities

By Sarah Hillenbrand | 2/10/13 6:25pm

As Grand Valley State University climbs higher each year in enrollment size and campus scope, both its Fieldhouse and Recreation Center, too, have continued to garner larger crowds with each enrollment boost, causing a little bit of congestion in the now overutilized facilities.

In order to address the overcrowding in campus recreation and exercise facilities, the university has formed a committee to help administrators like Brad Wallace of Athletic and Recreation Facilities Management, decide what the most prevalent and current needs are for students at GVSU.

“Our major focus has been to collect information from other universities and our own students, faculty and staff,” Wallace said. “We have bench marked with peer institutions, conducted formal and informal surveys around campus and are compiling our own user statistics in efforts to truly understand our shortcomings at this time. What we are finding is there is a need and desire by the students for more informal and programmable recreational space.”

The committee includes representatives from the athletics department, campus recreation, movement science, club sports, housing and residence life, human resources and Student Senate.

The major issues with overcrowding tend to deal with the basketball and volleyball courts, the pool and the exercise areas such as the free weight room and treadmills, Wallace said. In the short term, students are encouraged to plan their workouts during the morning hours when the building is slower. A long term solution, they said, would lie in some kind of expansion of services and facilities.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Wallace added. “We love being popular and that people want to come and utilize our facilities.”

Wallace said another reason the problem has increased is because GVSU has turned from a campus of largely commuter students, to a more residential campus in the last few years.

“The reason we are seeing the large usage numbers and in all of our facilities is directly related to the growth of Grand Valley’s enrollment as well as the new housing that has been constructed recently on and around campus,” Wallace said. “The university’s enrollment has almost doubled since the original recreations center was built.”

So how soon these changes could begin to crop up in GVSU’s campus? Not very. Wallace said it is a slow process, and they are still in the very early planning stages.

“We first need to determine if this is an initiative that the students want to support and then we will need to involve many others on campus to make any addition a reality,” Wallace said. “As with any major project, funding will be one of the bigger obstacles to overcome.”

Tim Selgo, director of Athletics at GVSU, said these kind of large-scale building projects take the most time.

“The programming that we have going on are off the charts,” Selgo said. “These are multi-million dollar facilities and things like that take a lot of time.”

The Kelley Family Sports Center, he added, as an example of a lengthly, but well-worth it undertaking, which is now in its fifth year at GVSU.

“It was a long process to get that facility, but with West Michigan weather, it is a great building to have,” Selgo said. “Our facilities are overcrowded, but imagine what it would be like now without having that building.”

Wallace also said the committee has discussed the need of having some type of facility for GVSU students who are primarily on the Pew Campus in downtown Grand Rapids.

“If the students see the need for a GVSU-run recreation center downtown, then we would be happy to take those suggestions and pass them along and include those ideas in future planning,” Wallace said.

To give your input on recreation at GVSU, visit www.gvsu.edu/sportsfacilities and select the online suggestion box.

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