October 22, 2013

SGA and athletics discuss SAC renovation plans

By Simon Isham —

As the new Student Recreation Center nears a grand opening, the Student Government Association and the athletics department are currently in discussion over which organization should be granted the rights to some newly opening space in the Student Activities Center. The space is currently occupied by a workout room and four basketball courts, facilities which will be moved to the new SRC once it opens. The SGA Senate met tonight to discuss the matter further among students.

SGA hope to turn the 24,000-square foot space into a convocation area for students. SGA asked Sherman Carter Barnhart, a Louisville-based architecture firm, to evaluate the cost of their project. The firm told them that if the space is simply renovated to their specifications, the project will cost $9.4 million.

Athletics, however, has formulated a counterproposal in which SGA and athletics split the space, with the promise that athletics will help SGA fundraise to add an extension onto the SAC. Even though SGA would not pay for athletics’ renovations in this plan, the work has been estimated to cost $21.4 million. Adding on to a building as old as the SAC increases the cost of construction.

SGA has accumulated the $9.4 million necessary to complete the renovation it wants via the student recreation fee that every student pays. The $21.4 million figure proposed by athletics would require more fundraising. Athletics’ proposal would also involve demolishing the Student Services Annex that currently houses Health Promotion and PEACC.

SGA President Carrie Mattingly said that SGA has already secured the bonding order from Frankfort to perform the renovation. “We really could start tomorrow,” she said.

Indeed, renovation plans were slated by SGA estimates to begin in early November, assuming that U of L administration granted SGA the rights to the space. This has not happened. Athletics’ counterproposal would take “hopefully two years to begin … that or we build until we run out of money” according to Mattingly.

During the 2010 – 2011 school year, then-SGA President Kurtis Frizzell was approached by the athletics department with an informal offer of $2 million in exchange for the space. The members of the SGA Senate took a vote and unanimously declined the proposition. They stated that the offer was too low. At the most recent Senate meeting on Oct. 22, they reaffirmed this decision.

Mattingly said that she did not know what the current market value for the space was, but said she imagined that it would be more than $2 million. She also said that athletics had still not made a formal offer on the space.

“Since the student activities fee paid for the SAC, myself and a number of other students feel that it is owned by the students. I know that athletics obviously has offices in the Student Activities Center … they did pay a sizable amount when we built the SAC to be able to have that space. But I like most of the students here today believe that it is in fact owned by the students,” she said.

Mattingly also expressed concern that the Multipurpose room in the SAC will soon no longer be sufficient to host new student orientation or the Interfraternity Recruitment Kickoff.

Austin Schwenker, director of finances for the Student Activities Board, said that the International Fashion Show, one of campus’ most popular events, is considering moving off campus because the SAB feel as though it will need more space for their growing event. It is currently held annually in the Multipurpose room. Schwenker stated that this move would not be necessary with a renovated space in the SAC.

In an interview with the Cardinal at the time of the original informal offer, Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Kevin Miller said that SGA could keep the space if they had a problem selling it to the athletics department.

U of L athletics spokesman Kenny Klein confirmed that talks about the space between athletics and SGA have been ongoing since the original offer was made.

“One of the primary planned uses of the space would be for University of Louisville spirit groups. Over 160 of those students are currently using practice facilities many miles from campus. Those are not scholarship athletes, but students who have brought national recognition U of L, make numerous public appearances and are terrific ambassadors for our university.  They practice extensively multiple times a week.  The area would also be used for practice and storage space for students in the pep band,” he said.

Klein also said that the athletics department has extended an offer to SGA to help fundraise for the expansion of student facilities, the current project included. In addition, athletics have offered to make available two spaces within the PNC Club and Brown & Williamson Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium available to student groups at no charge.

Mark Hebert, spokesman for U of L President James Ramsey, said that both the president and Provost Shirley Willihnganz are aware of the discussion, and have heard from both athletics and SGA about their respective interests.

Hebert said that in cases like this one, “The university always makes a committee and (Ramsey) refers (to them) to decide what is in the best interest of the university overall. Oftentimes it doesn’t just come down to one person (to decide).”

When asked who would be on the committee, Hebert said that Ramsey, Willihnganz, Director of Athletics Tom Jurich and Vice President for Student Affairs Tom Jackson would be involved in the conversation. Hebert did not know when this meeting might occur.

Other business announced at the Senate meeting:

  • The SGA Senate will soon have name tags.
  • Parking, especially green-pass parking, will soon be expanded with the opening of the Chevron lot.
  • Services Vice President Morgan Jenny announced her partnership with the Sustainability Council.
  • The Louisville Cardinal’s Crime Issue findings were a topic of discussion in the context of procuring better lighting for various areas of campus at night.
  • More than $4,000 was tentatively approved by the Appropriations Committee for travel funding for use by seven undergraduate Recognized Student Organizations.

All minutes were unanimously approved. No discussion ensued. The meeting was adjourned at 8:35 p.m.

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