Not working out: SRC construction causes recreational classes to be canceled, relocated

Andrew Sheeler/Sun Star Reporter
Feb. 7, 2012

Students who signed up for classes at the Student Recreation Center had better stay hydrated, stretch properly and be prepared to have class in unusual places.

Parts of the SRC will be closed this semester, including the front lobby and the dance studio, to allow contractors to work uninterrupted on a remodeling project that was planned in early November 2011. Because the dance studio will be closed, many recreational classes had to relocate or make plans to do so when the construction starts. One instructor canceled her class because an alternative location could not be found.

In November, Student Services planned to remodel the SRC but they hit a snag, said Ali Knabe, executive officer of Student Services.

“We were really hoping most of the [construction] work could be done over the winter break, but it just didn’t happen,” Knabe said.

The delay stemmed from unexpected design work that needed to be done before the remodeling could take place, including plans to rewire for electricity and cable.  The rewiring is necessary to handle the energy load of the new exercise machines as well as a new big screen TV in the lobby. Knabe called this the “not-so exciting part” of what she expects to be a popular remodel. While Facilities Services spent much of the winter break drawing up plans and designs for the wiring, doing so will save time “on the back end” as contractors won’t have to start from scratch when they get to work, she said.

The in-house work done by Facilities Services also saved the university in another way, SRC Facility Manager Erik Ofelt said.

“We didn’t have to go to an outside firm, which saved us a lot of money,” Ofelt said. The university saved as much as 10 percent on planning costs, he said.

The SRC will also replace the current, aging turnstile, transform the storage room in the back of the SRC into an equipment locker, build a customer service desk in the front lobby and build an enclosure wall around the second-floor dance studio.

Now that the design work has been done, the project must be put out to bid, which Ofelt hopes to see happen in the next couple weeks, he said. Construction is slated to begin in March, and take five to seven weeks to complete. The lobby and dance studio will be closed for much of that time, and students will enter the SRC through a temporary entrance located on the west side of the building, near the ice-climbing wall.

When they learned the construction wouldn’t be finished in time, Ofelt and Mahla Strohmaier, program coordinator for UAF Community & Technical College, had to figure out where all the classes were going to go. Strohmaier, whose office oversees all accredited recreation classes, said 28 classes were affected by the remodel. Over the course of three weeks, Ofelt and Strohmaier were able to find alternate locations for 27 of the classes. The last course, a cardio kickboxing class taught by School of Management instructor Sherri Wall, had to be canceled because no other time or place worked. In early December, Strohmaier notified the 14 students who had signed up. She said Wall also took the time to contact the students to let them know.

“If we can’t reach someone, it’s not because we don’t try,” Strohmaier said.

Strohmaier received four student complaints about the decision to cancel. One student wrote to complain on three occasions. The student wrote that she was unable to work out by herself, and Wall’s class provided her with both the opportunity and motivation to exercise.

“It’s always disappointing when you’re looking forward to a class and it’s canceled,” Strohmaier said, but she stressed that every option had been considered. “We even looked at some of the larger classrooms in Gruening.”

Wall, whose decade-long experience teaching kickboxing includes a year and a half at UAF, had many repeat students who were unhappy at the cancellation, she said. She’s excited for the renovation, she said in an email interview

“However, it seems to me that completing construction in the summer when the SRC is not so extensively used would have better served the users,” Wall wrote.

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