When Harry Ostrander, the Universitys director of Recreational Services, came to the University in 1969, the total budget for the department was $17,000. He had a secretary, two students, and a graduate assistant to work in the Field House, the sole recreational facility on campus. Activities there consisted almost entirely of intramural sports.
Now Recreational Services has a budget of $2.3 million, eleven full-time professionals, nine support staff people, and 350-400 part-time students each year to manage a wealth of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities full of students, faculty, staff, and community people of all ages at all hours.
In addition to a healthy intramural sports schedule, Recreational Services works with more than 30 student-directed and funded sports clubs. Theres a flourishing outdoor education and recreation program using the Universitys outstanding 480-acre facilities at Lake Macbride and trips to other sites in a three-state area.
Ostrander says the departments environmental education area "has skyrocketed in popularity. It really needs to be offered; its just unusual that were doing it. We got some grants a couple of years ago to offer environmental education to public schools, and it just took off. Now the schools pay for the program."
In summer the department offers Wildlife Camps, and if you dont register on the first day, youre likely to be left out. The area also includes the Raptor Center, a joint program with Kirkwood Community College that draws hundreds of people to see injured birds of prey being rehabilitated and released.
Other features include cross-country skiing facilities, nature trails, and campsites.
Demand is so high in these outdoor areas that Ostrander now envisions an Environmental Learning Center that could accommodate overnight stays and places to offer programming when the weather is unfavorable.
Back in the Field House, bulletin board signs trumpet the availability of fee-based, non-credit activities across a very wide spectrum: from martial arts to golf lessons, swing dance to capoeira, which a poster defines as "music, dance, prayer, and ritual combined into an urgent strategy by which people live, struggle, celebrate, and survive together." Three-on-three basketball teams organize to compete, with the winners playing basketball coach Steve Alford and his staff. Innertube water polo, scuba diving . The list seems endless.
In all of the departments growth, it can be argued that the biggest change in Ostranders years would be societys growing preoccupation with fitness and wellness. Keeping up with the steady demand for new and different facilities and services is a difficult task.
A few years ago, a fitness facility would contain weights and be dominated by males. Now its just about 50/50 men and women using an indoor track, weights, cardiovascular equipment such as stair-stepping machines, and other exercise machines.
"We needed to renovate and expand," Ostrander says. "We started with a 1,000-square-foot room, then went to two rooms, and now 6,000 square feet of fitness space in the Field House is not enough. We opened a new fitness space in Halsey Hall on the East Campus, and from its first day it has been overwhelmed8,500 participants a month using the equipment."
A balcony in the Recreation Building was converted to fitness and weight equipment. Still demand was ahead of supply, Ostrander says.
"So now were going to build on the West Campus, near the corner of Mormon Trek Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, a new facility that will have eight indoor tennis courts, 12 outdoor tennis courts, and an Olympic-sized pool. We break ground in May for that facility, which has been fully approved and funded," he says.
"On the upper level of a hall overlooking the tennis courts we will have 12,000 square feet of space with exercise equipment."
After that, plans center on the East Campus. "Weve been saying for a long time that we must do more on the East Campus, which has the majority of students, faculty, and staff. So we have a new plan that has not been approved or funded yet for a building near North Hall. Recently we did a study of whether students would be willing to fund this building through activity fees and whether faculty and staff would pay fees to use the facility. The study showed enough favorable response to make it feasible. So now were working with the administration to get funding."
Ostrander brings out colorful drawings of the proposed facility that show a new "neighborhoods" concept University "neighborhoods" on both sides of the river, each containing student residence halls, sources of food, and recreational facilities. "Well have a leisure pool with water slides, current channels, and a small lap pool. Other pools on campus are entirely lap pools, so this will be different. Well have 15,000 square feet of fitness equipment there .
"We hope this will be approved and funded by 2002," he continues. "Wed like to use the site of the municipal water plant near North Hall when the city moves to its new water plant north of I-80."
Article written by Anne Tanner