Response to email questions about Athletics and the referendum

The Division of Recreational Sports and the UW Athletic Department are two separately managed units at UW-Madison. Though they share some facility space, they do not share budgets, revenue streams, or other funding sources. If students choose to vote against the Master Plan, this result will have no impact on UW Athletics’ contribution to any Rec Sports capital projects.

UW Athletics operates as a self-sufficient enterprise that already makes a major impact on campus through Bucky grants (through licensing income) and Big Ten network income, among other contributions.

The primary use of Rec Sports facilities is by students for recreational purposes, with a relatively small percentage of time and space being occupied by UW Athletics. The UW Swimming & Diving, Tennis, and Track & Field teams rent space at Rec Sports facilities, and the Athletics Department helps fund the maintenance costs for shared space at the SERF, Natatorium, Nielsen Tennis Stadium, and Camp Randall Sports Center.

UW Athletics stated publicly last month that it has just completed four facilities projects that cost approximately $125 million. The department is currently not in a position to assist with the funding of the proposed Rec Sports Master Plan beyond the $7 million it has already committed.

Students’ segregated fees are designed to be allocated by the Student Services Finance Committee to fund non-academic services, programs, and facilities that support the primary mission of the university. This includes the Division of Recreational Sports. If the referendum is passed, students would be responsible for a maximum of 57 percent of the cost of the Master Plan, with campus sources paying for the remaining 43 percent.

All potential partners involved in the funding of the Rec Sports Master Plan share an interest in addressing the documented needs for maintenance and repairs of recreational facilities at UW-Madison. The university lags far behind its peers in the Big Ten conference for space devoted to recreational sports, with just 15,000 square feet available for 42,000 students.

Those involved believe the current plan provides an equitable division of costs between students (the main users of the facilities), campus administration, private donors, and UW Athletics.


10 thoughts on “Response to email questions about Athletics and the referendum

    1. Lori, at this point this is not a simple “yes or no” question. The plan in its current state does not include a competition pool; however, if additional funding become available before the SERF is scheduled for construction, a competition pool will be reincorporated into the project at no additional cost to students. You can read more here: Let us know if you have additional questions.

  1. Obviously they are separate units. Hence the purpose of attempting to get a more substantial contribution from one to the other. But the university is a university rather than an archipelago of autonomous units precisely because some services which are crucial to the mission of a well-rounded education — including those provided by Rec Sports — are not revenue-generating, and can be (and often are) supported by other revenue-generating units.

    The proposed renovations and additions to Rec Sports look great. I basically never use Rec Sports facilities, but I believe that students and employees of the UW should have access to excellent facilities. But what the university trades for foisting the majority of costs on to students is a university which is less affordable, more elite, and more out of touch with the majority of the people of the state of Wisconsin and the rest of the country. If there is money available in one of the richest units on campus, why not expect a more substantial contribution?

    1. Michael, thank you for your support of the plan. Rec Sports is proud to announce that over $95 million in alternative funding has been secured already. If additional funding becomes available at any time (pending students’ approval of the Master Plan), students’ contributions would continue to decrease.

  2. I would be interested to know how much “rent” the Athletic department pays for its use of Rec Sports for the UW Swimming & Diving, Tennis, and Track & Field teams … and to see some analysis of what times per day/per week are reserved for use by UW Athletics teams. Also … are there any plans to increase this rent and when was it last increased?

    1. Quarterly facility maintenance charges are billed to Athletics for the spaces used by the teams, but this amount fluctuates on a monthly basis depending upon supplies purchased and projects that are completed. The swim team practices are 6-8am and 2:30-5pm, outside of open lap swim. Athletics also pays lifeguard wages during these practice times. The Tennis and Track & Field teams use the Shell and Nielsen Tennis Stadium, but those facilities are not included in the referendum. Between the Natatorium & SERF, total Athletics usage accounts for about 1.5% of our “bookable” hours for all recreational activity spaces.

  3. My bank account and the division of recreational sports are also two separately managed units. As a grad student who has never used rec sports facilities on campus, I don’t want to pay a very hefty increase in fees for something I don’t benefit from, nor do I want to burden future students who will be in a similar situation. Step up, athletics–you should be able to do better than 3%. Either that, or propose an alternative solution that doesn’t further burden students who already pay high fees.

    1. While we respect your decision not to use our programs and services, 83% of students participated in our facilities/programs last year. Recreational facilities and programs can benefit an entire campus beyond the walls of the facilities themselves. Please refer to the chancellor’s blog post today for some examples of how your classroom and campus experiences might be impacted by improved facilities.

      Please note that students asked Rec Sports to keep their contribution to the Master Plan less than 60%. Rec Sports has successfully worked with numerous partners, including UW Athletics, to ensure that students will not pay more than 57%. That’s over $95 million that will not be received if the Master Plan does not pass. Perhaps an alternative solution might be to work together with other student organizations, if the Master Plan passes, to seek out additional funding opportunities that will continue to lessen the financial contribution of students.

      1. On an annual basis, our statistics have shown that our heavy users (3-5+ times a week) represent more than 60% of the student users.

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