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$24 million recreation center brings new possibilities

By Joshua Bennett
On September 19, 2013

 Construction of the new $24 million recreation center will be completed in January 2015 after six years of planning and development.
The center will replace the Leroy Moore Sr. Gym, which serves as the current site for recreational activities on campus. The new center will also merge with the Billy J. Nicks Natatorium, which currently houses the university's swimming pool.
The center will provide students with improved exercise rooms, multi-purpose rooms, three basketball courts, free weights, flat panel screen televisions, child watching areas, and a snack bar.
Assistant director of student engagement Orok Orok assisted in making sure that the center was equipped with modern audio and video equipment to make it serve additionally as a performance venue.
"My first thought was that I wanted to fly stuff from the roof. I want to fly lights from the roof. I want to fly sound from the roof," said Orok.
He added: "We need this because right now at Prairie View we have two performance venues; the Memorial Student Center and the Baby Dome. People can't afford the Baby Dome and the MSC is always booked, so if the schools add multiple performance venues for students that can provide upward of 1,500 people, we will have more diversity and the activities can be spread across the campus."
  Students approved of a referendum during the 2006-2007 school year, which pledged that students would give $15 a semester to fund the recreational center.
 However that proved to be too little of an amount to fund a project of this magnitude. Students then decided to pay $175 a semester, which is the highest amount students could be levied for the project, which proved to be enough to get permission to begin the task.
 Dr. Miron Billingsley, associate vice president for student affairs, says, "The CFO decided that the initial tax was not enough to get a new facility, so we decided to get a company to come in and do a survey to assess how much should we tax the students. The company said it had to be the highest amount. Students overwhelming approved of the amount and the development began."
According to Dr. Cory radford, senior vice president of business affairs, the university borrowed the money from outside sources to fund the project initially, with the students' money serving as a pay back for the loan for that may last approximately 10 years.
Billinglsey also believes the center will also help promote a healthier lifestyle on campus while helping improve the recruitment of new students.
"Sometimes students want to release stress, blow off steam, and just shoot some hoops. When we talk about wellness we have to talk about black people since we have some of the highest obesity rates, so this wellness center will give us the benefit to be able to workout here on campus," said Billingsley.
Current students also expect a rise in potential recruitment because of the new center.
"I know that if high school students came and saw the new rec center they would definitely want to go here, and I don't really think we have anything on this campus right now that would be that appealing to new students besides the MSC," said senior business major Kenya Alexander.
Other students hope that the new center will help get more students involved with the daily workout schedules, which are open to faculty and students.
"The new gym has daily workout plans that everyone can do, but not a lot of people do because the gym kind of sucks right now. There is nobody who wants to work out unless they feel comfortable and right now that gym is too small and old," said sophomore human performance major Arlesia Huston.
According to director of student engagement Steve Ransom, the new center will have two levels and will take up approximately 91,000 square feet.
Program coordinator Christian Leach is excited that alumni, students, and the Student Government Association came together to make sure the development was running smoothly.
"I'm just so proud that the SGA and many of the present and past students came together to help provide us with this necessary improvement to the campus," said Leach.

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