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Michigan State plans to upgrade rec sports facilities

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MSU Board of Trustees
Conceptual image of what the new recreation center will like from the outside.

Michigan State’s rec facilities are aging, and it is time to replace the buildings. The university hopes to create a space where the community can share in sports and wellness.

Michigan State’s recreational facilities on campus are old and outdated compared to other Big Ten universities. That will be changing soon as MSU now has plans in place to create a new facility focused on student wellness to replace IM West, which opened its doors in 1958.

The new recreation center is a part of the initiative by the Board of Trustees to improve the campus community. The facility, which will be located on Shaw Lane, between Birch and Harrison, is planned to have a 37,950 sq. foot fitness space, three gymnasiums with eight basketball courts, an indoor track, a wellness suite, a rock wall and other functional spaces. In the current conceptual drawings, there are no plans for a pool.

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MSU Board of Trustees
Current conceptual floor plan for the first level of the new recreation center.

The whole plan, with the turf fields and new building, is estimated to cost $300 million, according to Rick McNeil, director of recreational sports and fitness services at Michigan State.

“At IM East, there is a large overcrowding issue, and IM West is definitely crowded, so that large fitness space sounds awesome,” said Jake London, a freshman ROTC cadet who uses IM facilities to work out.

The first phase of construction will be an all purpose turf complex located on Service Road, and the fields have an anticipated completion for Fall semester 2022. The Board of Trustees is currently selecting an architect to work on the new building with the primary architect of the project, Moody Nolan. The design process will begin in April with presentation to the Board taking place in December 2022, and groundbreaking is projected for March 2023, said McNeil.

The cost of the facilities will be covered through fees bundled in student tuition. According to the plan approved by the Board of Trustees, tuition rose $50 per semester in the 2021-22 academic year. In the 2022-23 academic year, the student fee rises to $90 per semester, and in 2023-24, hits $130 per semester.

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MSU Board of Trustees
Current conceptual floor plan for the second level of the new recreation center.

Meaning, juniors and seniors who will be graduating from Michigan State are partly paying for the facility but will not get to use it.

“I feel scammed, they are pulling sneaky stuff increasing tuition by small increments,” said Ethan Macka, a junior majoring in media and communications.

The rec center will be more than just a place for athletic activities, and it is meant to make all students feel welcomed no matter what interests they have.

“The words I've always used, we are not building a new IM. We are creating a new concept, a new concept of student care and well being,” said McNeil.

The new facility will include a “wellness suite”, and students will be surveyed on what type of services they would like included. The wellness suite will provide students services to assist them in taking care of their body and mental health, McNeil said.

The specifics of the suite will not be established until the student survey is distributed and completed. Service options can be satellite care for student health, nutrition advice, wellness coaching and counseling.

“I think nutrition is huge, definitely on a college campus. Kids have some of the worst nutrition I think I've seen, myself included, because it is difficult with the dining hall setup trying to find good food to fuel your muscles… and having someone there who could give me some advice on how to deal with injuries or soreness would be excellent,” said London.

The goal of the new facility is to also create a space for students to socialize and not just participate in sports.

“We are planning for an intentional social lounge and some form of food and beverage option. Right now, it's vending machines under the stairwell that we have at IM West. There is no social lounge,” said McNeil.

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MSU Board of Trustees
Conceptual image of the Service Rd. turf field complex.

The current rec facilities on campus are not shown on athlete recruiting visits because of how outdated the facilities are, so McNeil hopes the new facility will have a positive impact on recruiting and overall freshman enrollment.

Ohio State University, which is a land-grant university like MSU, has fully updated facilities for their students. OSU’s University Recreation and Physical Activity Center is 650,000 sq. feet, and it cost $150 million. It includes a seven pool aquatic center, basketball, volleyball, badminton, racquetball and squash courts, more than 27,500 sq. feet fitness and conditioning space, student wellness center, synthetic turf gymnasium, as well as a climbing wall and outdoor adventure center, according to the website of construction company Gilbane Inc. MSU is now catching up to its fellow land-grant university with this new project.

When the project is completed, IM West will be torn down, but there are currently no plans in place for what will replace the empty spot once the facility is gone.

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