UC Berkeley’s recreational sports facility could expand

Tentative plans for the expansion of the UC Berkeley Recreational Sports Facility — which would create a new recreational “wellness” center for physical and mental health on campus — could be put to a student vote as early as a referendum spring semester.

The facility, which offers services to more than 28,000 students each year, plans to partner with the Tang Center to build a new facility on campus that would offer wellness programs as well as regular recreational activities in response to overcrowding problems.

According to Mike Weinberger, campus director of recreational sports, the student demand for fitness and wellness has risen over the past few years to a level that the sports facility can no longer satisfy.

“In 2007, we had consultants that did a campus recreation demand analysis,” he said. “They said that the national benchmark for indoor recreation space is eight to 10 square feet per student, and currently with the RSF, Cal offers about 3.25 square feet per student. We’re a third of the national standard.”

The wellness center would present alternatives to the current facility, which some students find too intense and intimidating, Weinberger said.  Officials from the sports facility and the Tang Center are discussing the possibility of including a weight room with lighter weights, equipment for cardio workouts and spaces to help reduce stress such as tranquility rooms and a ceramic arts studio.

Kim LaPean, communications manager at the Tang Center, said the center would also hopefully include health programs such as education sessions and a teaching kitchen for students who wish to learn how to cook.

“We’d be thrilled to partner on the initiative if it were to get approved,” she said. “We do a lot of preventative and proactive programs — we’re not just clinical.”

The idea for the wellness center is currently in a rough planning phase, according to Weinberger. It was originally suggested by last year’s ASUC and Graduate Assembly presidents and is now being set forth as a student initiative to be voted on in a future semester.

“It’s exciting to have the ASUC’s support,” said Weinberger. “The students came forward, we’ve done initial studies, we’ve gotten campus approval for the studies. Now we need to crank out the financial models to see how much this would cost.”

According to a recent study that the facility conducted, estimated costs for construction were found to range from $36 million to $100 million depending on the site. Four possible locations — including the east bleacher area of Edwards Track Stadium and Hearst Gym — are being considered at the moment.

“This is the opportunity to collaborate with Tang to build something that addresses the whole student, rather than just the physical aspect,” said Weinberger. “We want to service many students. For something this big, it takes years to get done.”