Since Boulder is such a fitness-oriented town, it would be easy to assume that recreational facilities at the University of Colorado would be able to accommodate all of the campus' active students.

However, CU Club Sports director Kris Schoech reveals the truth about the aging Rec Center: "What we have right now isn't enough."

The Rec Center was 150,000 square feet when it was built in 1973. The building eventually underwent two different expansions: one in 1986, and the other in 1989. The latter brought the three basketball courts, weight room, aerobic room and conference rooms that exist now.

Yet with 850,000 visitors a year today, the building does not have the capacity for all the students interested in CU's Club Sports and Intramural programs -- or even those who simply want to do personal workouts.

"It's just that we haven't done anything for a while," said John Meyer, a project manager on CU's proposed expansion of the Rec Center. "Basically, we put our best saddle on a dinosaur. We've done everything that we can possibly do with the space we have, trying to convert it into usable space to meet the student demand that we have."

CU students, who fund the Rec Center through their student fees, may be asked in next spring's election to increase those fees to help pay for an expansion of the facility. Consultants hired to assess CU's needs are looking at a two-phase project that would total $65 million to $80 million.

A survey will go out to 10,000 students next month seeking input on the renovation and willingness to support the project financially.

"When you look at both indoor and outdoor facilities, we're short," Meyer said. "When you compare it with what our demand is, being higher than the average, we're 42 percent short of the space we ought to have to serve basic recreational needs. So that's part of that demand analysis piece."

Impact on teams

Bradley Porter, of Evan’s Scholars #2, drives between Daniel Tolley, left, and Andrew Finch, of Space Jam, during an intramural basketball game at
Bradley Porter, of Evan's Scholars #2, drives between Daniel Tolley, left, and Andrew Finch, of Space Jam, during an intramural basketball game at the CU Rec Center earlier this month. ( PAUL AIKEN )

The lack of space has especially taken a toll on Club Sports and Intramural. Schoech said that almost all of the teams have to rent out facilities from the city of Boulder, which adds to the players' dues.

"It's really hard on club teams because they're already fundraising. Now they have to pay a rental fee to get a facility or a field. It's just more demanding on them," Schoech said.

Not to mention student interest in both Club Sports and Intramurals went up this year. This fall, there are 1,400 students participating in Club Sports, and 8,000 in Intramurals.

"Both Club Sports and Intramurals had larger than normal turnouts for teams and tryouts. All Intramural teams are full and Club Sports had to make cuts in almost all of our team sports," Schoech said.

Clearly, there is a large interest in Club Sports and Intramurals, but not enough facilities to enable coaches to take all the students who try out. This can hurt recruitment for teams, and for CU as a school. Schoech stressed that a good facility draws more students to come to CU in the first place.

"Having a nice recreation facility at a campus is a recruitment tool. And it can also help keep students here," Schoech said.

He added, "If they can get involved in some activity through recreation services, they're more likely to stay here all four years."

Student opinion

Holly Graham, president of the CU women's club volleyball team, said she' like to see more gym space at the Rec Center.

"The gyms are always crowded, have activities scheduled back-to-back," Graham said. "There seems to be little 'free' gym time to just start a pick up game."

CU student Yiwen Chen participated in both Intramural and pick-up basketball for several semesters. He said he thinks that the facilities serve their purpose well.

"For Intramurals, the games are set up, so you don't have to wait for a court. For pick-up basketball, it depends," Chen said. "Basically, if you win, you stay on the court. I think it's a pretty fair system."

Students not involved in Club Sports or Intramurals have opinions on the facilities as well.

Alex Leahy, another CU student, is a rock-climbing enthusiast -- but he avoids the Recreation Center.

"I never go to the Rec Center to climb, because the wall isn't very big. Even if there are only a few people trying to use it, it can feel cramped," Leahy said. "Not to mention, it can get kind of dangerous with multiple people trying to climb in a small area like that."