SIU’s Recreation Center provides learning opportunities and facilities that help to bring in students as well as keep them at SIU
With rising demands for high-tech recreation facilities, colleges can use expensive facilities as a recruitment tool as well as a way to boost retention on college campuses.
SIU is no exception, says Bill McMinn, director of the Recreation Center.
“It’s a real wholesome outlet for students, and there are opportunities for learning outside the classrooms,” McMinn said.
In a survey taken by the Recreation Center of 1,000 students, most students responded that the Recreation Center did improve their attitude toward SIU and positively contributed to their overall satisfaction with SIU.
McMinn also feels the survey shows that the Center does sometimes help with retention.
SIU’s Recreation Center has one of the largest sport club programs in the country and is as rated one of the best facilities in the Midwest. It has an upper- and lower-level track, an Olympic-size swimming pool, weight-lifting facilities, racquetball courts, a climbing wall and many classes.
With more than 220,000 square feet, the SIU Recreation Center is also one of the largest among universities in the nation.
According to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association website, the construction of recreation centers has increased among universities since the early ’90s. Also according to the association, 60 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities have recreation centers.
Chris Hemphill, a freshman from Chicago, had visited other colleges in Illinois and was not impressed by their facilities as much as he was by the SIUC Recreation Center.
“I was like, ‘Wow this is a good place to play ball, and I love to play ball a lot,'” Hemphill said. “It was a big influence.”
Tim Kosogof, a senior in construction technology from Crystal Lake, didn’t even know the facilities were at SIU until he arrived on campus. But now Kosogof sees the Recreation Center as an important part of his college experience.
“I spend about four hours of the day here, either playing basketball or working out or something else,” Kosogof said. “I suppose it does have an influence on why I’m still here.”
And although SIU’s Recreation Center doesn’t receive state support, it operates on a $3.2 million budget, most of which is raised by a student recreation fee that is included in tuition. The rest of the money is revenue generated by instructional programs, camps and community citizens who pay for membership.
Chenzira Allen, a senior in health care management from Chicago, did not know about the Recreation Center until she was actually on campus, and she admits she did not actually start to use the facility until her junior year.
But even though it had little influence on whether she was going to attend SIU, she now finds the center beneficial.
“I’ve heard of a lot of things they do here, like the fitness therapy and other classes,” Allen said. “I think that it is a resource that is useful.”
The Recreation Center was built in 1977 entirely with student funds. In 1989, the fitness center addition was built following a student-passed referendum.
A new health care addition for the Recreation Center has been approved by student organizations, as well as the Board of Trustees, and is pending approval by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
“We’ve always had great support from students,” McMinn said. “That’s how the first facility evolved and that’s how the addition evolved.”
The Recreation Center also employs more than 400 students on campus, something McMinn sees as an important part of the college curriculum. But it is also a place for students to be a part of, whether it is working in the center or using the facilities.
“I think quite frankly they think, this is a student recreation center and they really think it’s theirs and we are just the caretakers,” McMinn said.
Reporter Kristina Dailing can be reached at [email protected]