Jacoby: $50 million SRC makes exercise ‘fun’ – also raises questions about cost

Throughout the past week, University of Oregon students have flocked to the newly renovated Student Recreation Center, which opened this week after undergoing a $50 million expansion.

At the conclusion of 16 months of construction, the state-of-the-art SRC now boasts a Whirlpool spa, 15 new lanes of swimming and three new basketball courts (which are still under construction). The space for weightlifting and cardio doubled and new group exercise and yoga studios emerged after the renovation. Locker rooms are now two-stories high and feature private showers, and an outdoor patio with increased seating provides extra space for studying, relaxing, power-napping and other “recreational” activities.

The hot tubs, basketball courts and yoga studios, though, are not prominently displayed when one walks through the front door. They can all be found down hallways, up stairs or around corners, but seeing all these new features is unnecessary to sell the prospective consumer.

Upon first entering the new SRC, it’s hard to put one’s finger on the grandiosity of the spectacle. Kevin Marbury, the university’s Director of Physical Education and Recreation, said “Students feel the energy of the facility,” to the Oregonian. “There is a little bit of a ‘wow’ factor.’”

Perhaps it’s the massive rock wall protruding from the left, the futuristic, Space Mountain-inspired turnstiles or the 32-television-screen “media wall.” Whatever that factor is, “wow” is the correct word to describe it. If the school color was purple instead of green and yellow and the mascot was a purple cobra instead of the Duck, the new SRC would be the modern day Globo Gym. All that’s missing is the tagline, “We’re better than you, and we know it.”

“I’m excited,” human physiology major David Gallacher said. “It makes me excited to work out.”

It’s true; by the looks of the treadmill runners visible from atop the glass railing balcony, the new SRC makes burning calories fun and easy rather than awful and exhausting.

Gallacher recalls just last school year, when the SRC became so busy and crowded, especially at night, that he would have to wait in line to use the weights and machines. Working out became time-consuming and frustrating, and many of his friends sought out memberships to other nearby gyms.

While the old facility was intended to accommodate 2,500 students per day, UO P.E. and Rec states 4,500-6,500 people used the SRC every day. The expansion added 170,000 square feet and renovated 40,000 existing square feet. The 280,000 square foot SRC also features brand-spanking new machines and equipment for cardio and weightlifting.

Fellow human physiology major Melanie Smith was equally impressed by the new facility. When asked if she knew the expansion cost $50 million, Smith responded, “50-what?”

“It’s unfathomable,” Smith said when asked what she would do with $50 million. She never did come up with an answer, but she knew what she wouldn’t spend the money on.

“I’m gonna come here to work out and not watch TV,” Smith said, referencing the Jerry Jones-esque, 32-screen, standard-definition video board in the lobby.

“I wonder how much student debt there is on campus,” Gallacher chimed in, when asked the same question.

The new SRC costs students an additional $38 per term – a reasonable rate for those who use the facility. It will put Oregon, a sports-driven school, on par with the state-of-the-art rec centers at other colleges such as San Diego State, Cal Poly and Long Beach State.

Considering the football team’s stunning new Football Performance Center came with an invoice of $68 million, $50 million was the least the university could do for its other 24,000 students.

Follow Kenny Jacoby on Twitter @kennyjacoby

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Kenny Jacoby

Kenny Jacoby

Kenny is the senior sports editor for the Emerald. He spent two years studying computer and information science before changing his major to journalism. He also freelances for the Register-Guard, interns for the Eugene Weekly and works as a research assistant for UO journalism professor Seth Lewis.