New athletics fee is an ‘opportunity,’ say King’s administrators (updated)

The proceeds from a proposed new $180 university fee for a new athletics facility on Dalhousie’s Studley campus cannot be used for something else, says King’s president George Cooper. Students voted against KSU support in a referendum Nov. 27 and Nov. 28.

Luke Murray works out in the King’s gym (Photo: Bryn Karcha)

[box type=”info”] Update: Students voted against the KSU supporting the $180 athletics fee, say the referendum results, released Wednesday evening. Out of the 349 students who voted, 245 – 70 per cent – voted no.[/box]
The proceeds from a proposed new $180 university fee for a new athletics facility on Dalhousie’s Studley campus cannot be used for something else, says King’s president George Cooper.

Referendum question:
Should the KSU support a university fee of $180 per student per year for a new athletics facility on the Studley campus of Dalhousie University, to be implemented following the opening of the facility?

Cooper was speaking at Monday’s town hall. The King’s Students’ Union (KSU) is holding a referendum on Tuesday and Wednesday which will determine its position on the proposed fee.
The results will be presented to Kings’ board of governors, which will be voting on Thursday.
Several students, including KSU arts representative Amelia Wilding and KSU financial vice president Quinn Harrington, asked if the money would be better spent on Kings’ own gym, or on other infrastructure.
Neil Hooper, King’s athletics director, says King’s just doesn’t have enough space.
“Land’s not available,” he said.
Cooper said King’s couldn’t afford a completely new gym of its own.
“This is an inexpensive way of participating in what’s going to be a knock-your-eyes-out facility,” he said.
The facility is being described as a giant GoodLife. The most likely location is on South Street, in front of the Dalplex. The fee would not be introduced until the building is completed, likely in 2015-16.
Dalhousie approved an identical fee in April 2010.
Bonnie Neuman, Dalhousie’s vice president of student services and co-chair of the facility’s steering committee, has been communicating with King’s about the fee. She says she approached King’s within a year of Dalhousie approving it. Nothing happened, so she brought it up again last spring. She says it was probably overlooked while King’s switched presidents.
Fourth-year student Ken Wallingford spoke in favour of the fee. He said a spacious, clean space would be used by many students. The King’s gym is worn out and dingy, he said, and many students pay for memberships at gyms and yoga studios off campus.
Wilding spoke for the “no” side. She says some students might prefer to spend their money somewhere else. Wilding also said the facility would not offer enough King’s-specific perks.

“Our problem is space”

– King’s athletics director Neil Hooper

“King’s needs to be focussing on improving what we have here,” said Wilding.
An opt-out option would mean a much higher fee for students who opt in. Elizabeth Yeo, Kings’ registrar, said this is because Dalhousie needs to know now if King’s will be contributing to the cost of the facility.
The proposed fee would not only help pay for a new facility, but might also pay for renovations to the Dalplex and Sexton campus athletics facilities. Currently, King’s students have access to most of the Dalplex and Sexton campus facilities.
Students at the meeting raised concerns about King’s students’ access to the Dalplex if renovations go forward without any help from King’s.
Cooper said nothing of the sort had been discussed, but he didn’t know for sure.
Neuman says King’s students’ access to the Dalplex will not be affected either way. The vast majority of the money will be going towards the new facility, not renovations, she says. However, when a new facility opens, some services currently available at the Dalplex might move, such as weights and cardio.
Cooper says King’s relationship with Dal is valuable.
“I wouldn’t want to push that envelope too far,” he said.
Voting will continue until Wednesday at 5 p.m., with results expected later Wednesday evening. The board will be voting on Thursday, because Dalhousie needs an answer by the end of the month.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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