X lot, Farmer Brown may become site of new recreation facility
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 23:03
Talk of a new recreation facility has been circulating around the University of Connecticut. Faculty members on the planning committee that was formed to provide recommendations for how to make use of the 26-acre plot of land have halted their discussion until student feedback is heard.
The planning committee will work in conjunction with Student Body President Stephen Petkis and the Undergraduate Student Government to hold forums in mid-April for students to voice their opinions.
The university recently purchased the parking lots known as “Farmer Brown” and “X lot”, located on the northwest side of campus, for $3.8 million. Almost immediately, a working group was formed to gather information and assess how the space can be put to the best use.
Thomas Callahan, the university’s associate vice president of infrastructure planning and strategic project management, heads the committee.
“We think that this property is an ideal location for a potential recreation facility,” Callahan said. “But a lot has to be considered.”
According to Cyndi Costanzo, the executive director of recreational services and a member of the planning committee, cost is a major factor in determining what UConn will build.
“It’s a substantial expense. At the end of the day, the students must be behind this because it will cost,” Costanzo said.
Costanzo said student fees have funded most recreation facilities built at universities around the country in recent years, though no decisions have been made yet as to how UConn would pay for a new facility.
The planning committee hopes to use the student forums in April to explain what the recreation center would include and the process and financing of the project. Costanzo said the group wants to relay that the building is an investment in UConn’s future, as most current students will never use the facility.
“The students that are here today won’t use that building. Realistically, it’s a two-year building process and that doesn’t take into account all of the planning that will have to occur beforehand,” Costanzo said. “We’re asking students to invest in it, not necessarily financially, but as an idea.”
Though an Environmental Impact Statement must be completed before construction can begin, which is typically a six to nine month process, Callahan said construction could begin as early as 2014.
Callahan said the committee has done some “very preliminary designing” and has been discussing what types of activities the new recreation center could potentially facilitate. A track, pool, workout room and outdoor fields, have all been brought up in discussions.
The planning committee plans to present the recreation facility idea to the Board of Trustees, who will have the ultimate authority in the decision, at the board meeting scheduled for April 24, should the forums show strong student support.
“Farmer Brown” and “X-lot” will be available after spring break for commuters and employees with “area 2” parking permits to use, helping to address a parking deficiency that has been frustrating students and staff. The lots are likely to remain open for parking until construction begins.
Though Costanzo said the 26-acre plot of land is large enough to house a recreation facility and additional parking, due to financial constraints, one project has to be taken on at a time. A parking garage, academic buildings and recreational fields have also been discussed as potential first steps.