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Students leave the Johnson Center on Monday afternoon. The University is asking students feedback about the renovation.

Students leave the Johnson Center on Monday afternoon. The University is asking students feedback about the renovation.

Student input sought for Johnson Center renovation

The University is in the preliminary stages of planning the first major renovations to Johnson Center in 15 years, and officials are asking students to help them out.

Kevin Grant Stevenson, strategic planner in the president’s office, said that any eventual designs for renovation to Johnson are grounded almost completely in what students want.

“The renovation of Johnson Center has been something of high priority to students for a long time,” he said. “Now that the semester has started, we’re going to begin ramping up our communications about all of this to begin sharing more and more information to the student body.”

Students interested in seeing potential updates to Johnson can visit http://recsvcs.unm.edu/common/new-rec-center/new-recreational-center.html. Included on the webpage are several amenities that Johnson Center does not currently possess, but may after future renovations, including an indoor track, a multi-activity court and a martial arts studio.

Photos from other schools showing their versions of such features are provided to give an idea of what Johnson may get later on. Students are also able to rate how “important” each potential amenity would be to them, as well as write additional comments or feedback.

The University has also begun working with its student governments, the Associated Students of UNM and the Graduate and Professional Student Association, to get even more insight on what students would like.

ASUNM President Jenna Hagengruber said that while the summer was devoted to researching the financial implications and examining Johnson’s current state, she hopes to soon be able to talk to students to see what they’d want in a modernized Johnson Center.

“Now that school’s started, (the University) is going to get us as much information as possible so that we can spread the word in the next couple of weeks, just to see how the 
students would feel about potentially funding a new Johnson gym,” 
Hagengruber said.

The current version isn’t up to UNM’s standards, she said, citing the limited access to certain rooms when classes are utilizing them at the same time.

“I don’t think we’re reaching the student population and serving them in the way that we should be, especially with how many undergraduates we have here,” she said. “Until we provide our students opportunities to have that open recreation space and have a gym that’s up to par with the level that our school’s at, we’re providing them 
a disservice.”

Robert Kolar, a senior chemistry major, utilizes the gym several days a week and said that it’s past time the school turns that disservice into a tune-up.

“It really should be a priority,” Kolar said. “The equipment is far outdated and getting a little bit dangerous. It’s just not enough with the load of students that they have.”

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Lisa Marbury, executive projects director at Institutional Support Services, also said progress is being made on estimating how much the project would cost.

She said the budget for the full renovation – which would be done in three phases – currently stands at $63 million, with $35 million allotted for phase one. The money would be raised through an institutional bond along with funding from 
the state.

Stevenson said that phase one would focus on the highest-priority renovations.

“It’s really focused on increasing the amount of space available for recreation and doing renovation to some of the things that are pretty critical from students’ perspectives,” 
he said.

Marbury said that if the University can secure the money, the plan would be for the full renovation of Johnson to be complete by fall of 2019 – that would allow for about 18 months of construction as well as a design process that would take about a year.

Some of the design proposals would be contributed by those who Johnson serves first 
and foremost.

“When we move forward on the project, we will then put together a team that would start getting into the design aspects,” Marbury said. “That team would include student involvement.”

Stevenson said that construction timeline is influenced by the students’ need to be able to access the facility 
during construction.

“The trickiest piece is making sure that there’s still some access to the facility during renovation. We don’t want to shut the w
hole thing down for 18 months while we renovate.”

The last time any renovation was done to Johnson was in 2010 on the Olympic pool, Marbury said. In 2000 many of the current amenities were added, including weight rooms, locker rooms and hallways adjacent to the 
primary gym.

David Lynch is the news editor at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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