In March 2014, University of Wisconsin students made history in Madison when they voted overwhelmingly to support a Master Plan for new recreational facilities on campus.

This blog tells the story of the current facilities, the process by which the Master Plan was approved, and plans moving forward.

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Rec Sports’ mission is to enhance the UW-Madison experience by providing top-quality programs, services, and facilities. With more recreational space, the university gains a greater capacity to provide daily opportunities for students and the campus community to play hard, get fit, and live well.

Please take time to browse this site, post your questions and thoughts in the comments, and imagine a better future for our great university. Thank you for your support as we move forward.

On, Wisconsin!

Your Division of Recreational Sports


105 thoughts on “Welcome

  1. As both a Badger and Buckeye, I am thrilled to see these plans! Ohio State has fantastic rec facilities. They are truly a benefit to the OSU campus and community. It is great to see that UW is planning for the future and working to position itself as a leader in student services for many years to come.

  2. Please explain to me why a spectator- competitive swimming pool/venue is not in the master plan but a recreational/lap pool is in the plan?

    1. Michael, the Division of Recreational Sports serves the general student body by providing recreational programs, services, and facilities. Students were not willing to fund 100% of a competition pool that would be a shared-use facility. At this time, alternative funding is not available to support a facility of that nature. If that changes, however, before the time of design/construction at the SERF, the competition pool will be reincorporated into the Master Plan. You can read more here: https://uwmadisonrecsports.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/rec-sports-responds-to-news-article-pool-questions/.

  3. Are there any plans to add facilities for bicycle commuters? I’m surprised the UW has no such facilities, considering Madison’s and the UW’s reputation for bike- and eco-friendliness.

    Some simple sheltered parking and a way to use the showers would be very helpful, and matches up with all the rhetoric about how fitness and health are part of a good education (see Chancellor Blank’s blog post). The SERF is right next to the Southwest Commuter Path and this seems like a good opportunity to promote more biking to campus.

    1. Dan, the short answer is YES. If the referendum passes and students support the Master Plan, we will be looking to incorporate these types of facilities into our buildings.

  4. It seems to me that I think you could achieve in obtaining the entire package of upgrading the recreational sports and the aquatic facilities. Our local Big Ten schools such as the University of Minnesota and University of Iowa have done just that. Have you explored all options and met with these other Universities to learn how they were able to do it all. I think just settling for only half the package is really a substandard way of looking at it. I think this University is better than settling for half of a package. Maybe a delay is what is needed and more conversations should occur before pushing this package through.

    1. Should additional funding for a competition pool become available, that facility will be reincorporated into the plan. The SERF is not scheduled to go under construction until 2017 so that provides some time for donors and other partners to step forward if interested. You may find the following article from this morning’s State Journal an interesting read as well. http://lacrossetribune.com/sports/columnists/jason-galloway/jason-galloway-many-memories-made-at-uw-natatorium-but-changes/article_e8eb0523-226e-58c7-bf9b-87b74274575d.html?comment_form=true

      Thank you so much for your input, Shelly!

  5. As a current student and one who uses the recsports facilities 5+ times a week, I am in full support of this. Half the time I am in the SERF weight room I can hardly breathe and frankly its pitiful such a great university has such poor recreational facilities. I didn’t get to see the facilities on the official tour and for good reason, but other schools definitely saw a bump in my enthusiasm when they showed off a new recreational center.

    I doubt anyone can faithfully say that this plan is not an improvement by leaps and bounds, and future badgers will be thankful for those who vote “Yes”. As much as we all hate seg fee increases, they will be increasing anyway and I believe that these facilities are much more valuable to the student body as a whole than many other uses of seg fee moneys. Anyway, if you really want to attack the rise in college expenses, don’t look here. Stop by the administration office in any of the buildings and you’ll see witness why your wallet is feeling awfully light.

  6. I am a UW student, as well as a parent of club swimmers. They swim at the Nat for state meets, and even some smaller invitational meets during the club season. To think that this plan would not include a competition pool with spectator seating is about on par with the fact that swimming is not football. I love football. But swimming is a life skill and competitive swimming is big in the Dane County (and beyond) area.

    There’s absolutely no reason to again repeat your comment that includes the link to the information about the pool. I’ve read it, and it does not adequately address the lack of importance placed upon a varsity sport at this fine university.

    But my vote is no, even though it’s only one vote, because that is a ridiculous subtraction from what your current facilities have (subpar though they may be).

    1. Andi, we certainly support all of the UW varsity sports equally, but we are not related to UW Athletics either by management or funding. Rec Sports priority is to serve the students who use our facilities for recreational purposes. Should enough funding become available for a competition pool, this facility will be reincorporated into the plan.

  7. Why aren’t the faculty and staff who also use these facilities being forced to also pay to support these facilities? Why should I have to pay so that my professor get’s a better gym membership? I would love to see the statistics of usage breakdown between students and faculty (ie 60% of the use comes from students…40% comes from faculty/staff) and then divide the costs between the groups accordingly. If they get a benefit from it, they should be involved in paying for it too. It is inappropriate to make the students exclusively pay for these facilities, if they aren’t the only ones who can use the space.

    1. Faculty/Staff memberships will increase as well, although the exact amount will not be known until the formal design process (pending students’ votes to support the plan in the upcoming student elections on March 3-5). Last year, 83% of students used our programs/facilities, compared to 18% of Faculty/Staff.

  8. These are some of the student fees I found for other Universities (I couldn’t find everyone in the Big Ten, because some build it in to the overall tuition cost)

    Michigan: $97.19
    Minnesota: $414.91
    Indiana: $641.50
    Northwestern: $116
    UW-Madison: $565

    So Indiana is even higher than UW, which is surprising given how ridiculous UW’s are. Michigan also has two Union’s, many clubs, decent rec facilities (that they’re upgrading!), and manages to keep theirs more than $400 cheaper than Wisconsin. I imagine Northwestern has nice facilities as well. Minnesota just re-did all their rec facilities, and still comes in under Wisconsin’s. It’s ridiculous how much the fees are at this school. As a grad student, I will be voting “no” on the rec facilities upgrade because my student fees are already such a large portion of my yearly income. Also, a lot of the clubs funded by my student fees don’t even allow grad students to join. I understand that the facilities need to be upgraded, but UW can’t keep upping the amount they’re charging every semester. I’m sure rec sports doesn’t get a huge cut of the seg fee money, but maybe that’s something they need to address with whoever manages the distribution of it. I imagine there is some irresponsible management of some of the fees. I also find it ridiculous that they aren’t including a pool in these plans, however I think the athletic department should be responsible for providing that for the varsity swim teams. I imagine they don’t get a lot of recruits because of poor support from the AD.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Erica. Please note that tuition varies between schools as do fee structures and distribution procedures. The Student Services Financial Committee actually makes recommendations about the allocation of student segregated fees at UW-Madison. Let us know if you have further questions about this process and, if we can’t answer them, we will certainly help connect you with people who can.

      1. Yes, I realize that. I paid the same thing in tuition at my previous university, and hundreds of dollars less in student fees, and I had better facilities and services. Clearly the SSFC spends money very irresponsibly, that’s clear from looking at the breakdown of the student fees. No one needs to ask “further questions” on that, it’s clear.

  9. I’m happy to see such a wonderful commitment to sustainability in the Master Plan. However, “sustainability” does not always mean “environmentally friendly.” This is why an environmental impact assessment should be completed before students are asked to fund this project.

    For example, it’s awesome that the fields are LEED-certified. However, there is no mention in any of these plans about how the eco-fill turf degrades over time, especially with all the additional use you guys are hoping to get out of these fields. I’ve also heard concerns about the potential negative health effects of the polymers it’s made from. Similarly, salt runoff from parking lots is incredibly damaging to aquatic ecosystems. These effects become especially harmful when one considers where these fields are located in the Willow Creek and Lake Mendota watersheds.

    Any potential organic or chemical runoff in these areas needs to be considered carefully, regardless of the LEED certification of the fields. “Directing storm water” to “reduce” an impact to these ecosystems is not a convincing solution. We need more. We would suggest that RecSports consider incorporating a vegetative buffer into the field design, up to the 100-year floodplain if possible.

    In addition, we are concerned about the effect these renovations will have on bird populations. Sandhill cranes have been spotted numerous times on the Near West fields, and we are concerned that replacing these fields with eco-turf will continue to deter these important species even after construction is complete. We are also concerned about increased use of lights in these fields, as bright, nighttime lighting disturbs bird populations.

    We are very excited about the sustainable design of the buildings, but there is still no information available about the efforts the University and RecSports will make to minimize disturbances to local ecosystems.

    1. They are going to replace it. With a big lobby — didn’t you see the shiny pix?

      Both I and my better half swim (and SCUBA dive). SERF has no diving pool, it is too far out of the way for us and it will be overcrowded if NAT pool closes down.

      So RecSports is losing 2 staff membership fees the day NAT pool closes down. Go RecSports.

      1. Dimitri, Rec Sports has continued to listen to students’ requests since we began this process. Students asked for their portion of the plan to be less than 60%. We’ve gathered enough alternative funding to keep students’ funding to a maximum of 57%. Students saw original designs for the Natatorium and said it was too big. We downsized. Students said they were not interested in funding 100% of a competition pool. When alternative funding wasn’t available, the pool was removed from the plans. Please note that the pool could be added back in to the plans should funding become available — at no extra expense to the students. If students do not want so much “free” space with seating, we will downsize the amount of lobby space and fill it with other programming opportunities. The images you see on the site are purely conceptual and not final design, which will begin pending students’ voting decisions next Monday through Wednesday. Rec Sports will continue to listen to students for guidance and insight throughout that process as well. We hope that our track record of working with students will speak for itself and that, as a Faculty/Staff member, you will help us in informing our students so that they may make educated and responsible decisions when voting March 3-5.

  10. I submitted a question a while back, but didn’t hear an answer and have not seen the question posted here…so I will ask again.

    I understand you are working to keep the student seg fee increase at bay until the new facilities are operating. Are you planning a similar strategy for the increase of fees facilty/staff will need to pay to use the current facilities? In other words, when do fac/staff fees go up?

    1. Sharon, first of all we apologize for not seeing your question posted earlier. Secondly, you are correct to assume that fac/staff membership rates would also increase but not until a new facility opens.

  11. I’m curious as to why only STUDENTS get to vote on this project? Why can’t faculty, staff, and Rec Sports paying members have their voices and concerns heard?

    As an alum, former rec staff employee, current UW staff person, and frequent user of your faculties, it would have been nice for your to poll all of your stakeholders.

    1. Students vote on the Master Plan because the funding directly impacts their segregated fees. This is a University policy, not a Rec Sports decision. Faculty/Staff, members, alumni, and other members are definitely welcome to make their voices heard and have been invited to fill out surveys, attend open forums, post on our blog (thank you), etc.

    2. What a fabulous idea. Let’s let faculty, staff and Rec Sports paying members vote also so that we don’t have to bear the burden of these fees! Charge them also!

    3. Wisconsinrecsports
      February 25, 2014 “Faculty/Staff memberships will also increase once facilities are finished.”

      This is exactly my point- since it directly impacts my access fees and rates, you should allow fac/staff to vote on this project as well.

      1. As part of the shared governance system here at UW-Madison, all building projects related to services/programs funded by segregated fees must go through a student vote referendum. The student vote is not a Recreational Sports decision but a campus policy.

  12. From the FAQ section:

    “When will seg fees increase?
    Due to the amount of alternative funding already committed to the Master Plan (pending students’ support in March), Rec Sports feels it is in a good position to minimize increases in segregated fees until a new facility opens.”

    This seems like an incredibly ambiguous and non-committal statement, which makes me nervous about supporting the plan. Can you offer a more specific answer than your feelings about minimization? Current and future students need to have assurances that the seg fee system won’t be abused for facilities they may never see (unless they are still students/faculty/staff during the next decade), especially since seg fees have already increased by a lot in recent years. Specific numbers, dates, etc. would give me more confidence.

    One more thought: I’ve noticed many arguments for updating the facilities include comparison with other schools in the Big Ten. I fail to see the relevance of these arguments, with exception of the impact of the facilities on recruiting athletes. A decision by students or administrators at some other school for high seg fees isn’t a good reason for us to do so.

    1. Pardon me. I read the statement as “…Rec Sports feels it is a good position to minimize increases…” so I took mistakenly interpreted it too harshly. Still, can you expand on your expectations regarding the increases?

    2. Dave, thanks for your questions. Because of the funding Rec Sports has already secured (a minimum of 43% of the total project cost funded by the UW Foundation, the State, UW Athletics, and Rec Sports program revenue), we do not anticipate having to ask students to pay for facilities they do not use. We will announce the seg fee schedule very soon, as we wait for final approval and information from other campus units. This information will all be publicized prior to the vote. We recognize that this is extremely valuable information for students. Please note that should students not support the Master Plan, segregated fees will still increase in order to repair and maintain the existing facilities. Again, more information will continue to be released prior to March 3.

      As for your statements about our comparisons to other schools in the Big Ten, the intention is to reveal the possibilities and opportunities that are available with newer, more efficiently designed facilities. The fact is that our facilities were built 30-50 years ago and the student body has grown significantly in that amount of time. Our biggest challenge is space, and we hope to educate students on the recreation experience that they could have with newer, more spacious and cost-effective facilities. Please continue to reach out to us with questions or clarifications. We ask that, in return, you will hold others accountable for the facts.

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