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Friday, December 19, 2014

Wellness center’s future unsettled

Cost of reconstruction is off-putting to many

assistant-news@dailylobo.com
@ChloeHenson5

After almost eight years, UNM is still uncertain about plans for a new wellness center on campus.

UNM President Robert Frank said his administration would conduct a public dialogue to figure out what the next step for the proposed wellness center will be.

“We’ve been doing all these surveys about what people think of the right stats, what people want in the community,” he said. “Now that we have all that input, we will go to that public dialogue, and that’s what everyone’s been waiting for.”

According to an article by the Daily Lobo, representatives from the UNM administration, the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico and employees from Johnson Center and the Student Health and Counseling Center introduced the idea of replacing or reconstructing Johnson Center and the SHAC building in 2006.

While a new committee that worked on the wellness center last semester proposed a four-phase plan, Frank said there are no concrete plans for the project.

“I think what we would have is some tentative plans, and then those plans would lead to concrete plans,” he said. “We’re a long way from concrete plans right now.”

Frank said the administration is also planning to bring in a consultant to help design the center.

“We put out a (response for proposal) for a consultant to work with us on this (public-private partnership) process,” he said.

Tim Gutierrez, associate vice president of Student Services, said he didn’t know who the University would team up with to work on the center. But he said the potential partnership would help UNM construct a new building for a wellness center.

“The public-private partnership is all designed to help the University in the sense of being able to expand their facilities and reduce cost,” he said.

James Foty, a member of the committee who has been working on the wellness center, said many people thought the center was a good idea, but were concerned about cost.

“I guess my sense is that, in general, students like the idea of the wellness center,” he said. “But I think the more critical students are questioning how it’s going to be paid for.”

According to a story by the Daily Lobo, the former proposal for the wellness center involved four phases of construction and redesign. The funding was under discussion, but depending on the specifics of the project, the budget ranged from $58 million to $71 million.

Gutierrez said he has heard students voice similar opinions concerning cost.

“Overall, most of the student reaction is very positive,” he said. “The concern that they have, and rightly so, is the cost.”

Gutierrez said the planning committee found that students did not support the four-phase project, and as a result the planning committee for the center was looking into alternative plans.

“I don’t think they supported that, the four-phase,” he said. “It was too costly, and it left too much open to what they may have to pay for in the future ….We’re looking at an alternative and reevaluating student needs.”

Frank said he personally wants to see a wellness center that unites the UNM community.

“I want a center that engages our students and our faculty and staff in one spot that provides recreation and wellness and brings our campus community together,” he said. “That’s what I’d like.”