Student fees to fund Dixon Rec expansion project at OSU


CORVALLIS - A quarter-century after Dixon Recreation Center ushered in a new era of recreational opportunities at Oregon State University, the final phase of the project has received a green light from the Oregon University System.

This month, construction began on a $19 million expansion of the OSU facility --- a project that will be funded by student fee dollars.

A "tip-off" for the project will be held from 11 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at the Dixon Recreation Center. The public is invited to view a display model of the facility, floor plans, schematic drawings, and a description of sustainability features. A brief presentation will be held at 11:30 a.m.

"It has been a long time coming," said Tom Kirch, who directs the Department of Recreational Sports at OSU. "When Dixon first opened in 1976, it was one of the first facilities of its kind of the West Coast. It was always planned as a multi-phase project, but this final phase has taken some time to get launched, and we've really outgrown the facility.

"Our students have waited a long time for this addition," he added. "It will tremendously enhance the campus recreation and programming opportunities and certainly contributes to the university's recruitment and retention efforts."

Student fees will fund the expansion by financing 30-year bonds issued by the state, according to Mark McCambridge, vice president for finance and administration at OSU. These student fees are restricted to capital construction projects within the Oregon University System and typically are used for student unions, recreation centers and other student-oriented facilities.

This third phase of Dixon Recreation Center has been planned since 1986, when a proposed expansion of the original facility was split into two stages because of limited resources. It still took another six years before the second phase of the project was completed. In 1992, the Stevens Natatorium opened, providing students with a 25-meter, eight lane lap pool, a diving well, spa, full-service locker rooms, storage, and other aquatic facilities.

The latest expansion project will add about 60,000 square feet of new space to the recreation center, including a three-court basketball gym, a three-lane indoor jogging track, an outdoor recreation center, an indoor climbing facility, weight lifting and cardiovascular workout rooms, and multi-purpose rooms and street-level ADA accessible lobby and entry.

Dixon already has a three-court gymnasium, several racquetball/handball courts, weight rooms and cardiovascular workout rooms, locker and shower facilities, and some office space for student clubs and activities, as well as the natatorium.

The expansion will include renovation of about 20,000 square feet of the existing building that will improve the university's ability to offer student programs, including intramurals, sport clubs, lounges, meeting rooms and an innovative Health/Fitness Connection program that combines athletic training, physical therapy and fitness services. The Health/Fitness Connection program is a collaborative effort with Student Health Services. Kirch said the additions will provide students space that is conducive to socialization, studying and student interaction.

The need for an expanded facility is compelling, Kirch said.

Not only has OSU's enrollment grown from about 13,700 to 18,000 students in five years, Kirch pointed out, but the expectations of students are higher. Students today have grown up with access to sport, fitness, and wellness opportunities and the demand for fitness equipment --- such as stair climbers, treadmills, and stationary bikes --- is intense. So is the need for weight-lifting machines and free weights, as well as for open areas for classes featuring aerobics, martial arts, yoga and other activities. In addition, recreational space for traditional court sports such as basketball, volleyball and badminton has increased in recent years. There has also been a great demand on outdoor and adventure-based activities which the new climbing and outdoor centers will address. Kirch said more than 80 percent of the university's students utilize the recreational facilities and program each year.

"We did extensive surveying of students to first find out if they supported an expansion, which they overwhelmingly did, and then to see what they most wanted in a facility," Kirch said. "Student input has been a critical component of the project the entire way and that's appropriate. It's their money."

The expansion plans call for a "sustainable design" that will emphasize natural light and ventilation to help reduce energy costs. Other facets of the design will include heat recovery systems and the use of recycled materials for some of the construction.

Kirch says the architects estimate projected energy savings of 10 to 15 percent annually above the Oregon energy code. Architects for the project are from Yost Grube Hall Architecture. The contractor is Slayden Construction, which also built OSU's indoor practice football facility.