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Sense of Place

Minnesota State University, Mankato: Otto Recreation Center

University Business, Jan 2006

FUNCTION: Rec center and student lounge

PROBLEM: Campus rec had not been a Minnestota State priority; with the rec department, campus athletics, and the human performance academic department sharing a facility, "accessibility and opportunity just weren't there" for individuals, says Todd Pfingsten, director of Campus Recreation. Pfingsten would know. He completed undergrad and graduate work at MNSU in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which time he served as interim director of campus recreation. A 1998 survey--which found that access to quality recreation facilities, programs, and equipment was one of three top student wishes--provided a push to action.

SOLUTIONS: As part of a larger athletic facilities project, the old athletic arena was given to Campus Recreation. While Pfingsten notes the challenge in converting a former basketball arena into a rec facility, resourceful thinking helped. The arena's floor was replaced to create a new gym, and the second-level bleachers were removed to install a three-lane track, with a cardio area along the perimeter. Each of the 40 cardio machines has a personal computer, complete with keyboard and screen so students can multi-task by watching cable TV, playing a CD or DVD, accessing e-mail, or searching the web. "The majority of students still watch TV," Pfingsten says. "But you do see students checking e-mail, studying class notes." As for sweat and pricey equipment not mixing, floppy rubber keyboards that are considered indestructible prevent worries. Future goals: Greater facility use by students (more than 40 percent of the student body visited in its first two months) and faculty (who can join for a nominal fee). Administrative support for health and wellness, which were mentioned during the president's convocation speech this fall as official priorities, hasn't hurt that endeavor.

PROJECT COST: $46 million total for the athletic facilities; $8.4 million for recreation center

COMPLETED: October 2005, in time for Homecoming Weekend

ARCHITECT: Ankeny Kell Architects, St. Paul., Minn. --M.E.