A Student-Driven Process

The Aggie Recreation Center at Utah State University is due to open November 2015, and perhaps one of the greatest aspects of the $30 million facility is the power it gives students.

In 2009, student Tyler Tolson proposed the new addition to the university’s campus recreation center. “It was led primarily by the students, and they voted on it, so it’s a student-only recreation center,” said Chase Ellis, the director of campus recreation. “It’s great because our department can grow as much as the students want it to and we’re completely open to the students voicing new ideas and programs that they want to see.”

Plans for The Aggie Recreation Center were developed through brainstorming and focus groups with the students. It sits across from the Nelson Fieldhouse and will offer increased access, so more students can be involved in campus recreation at Utah State.

The new facility will have a multi-use basketball sports court, a rock climbing and bouldering wall and an outdoor turf complex complete with soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball fields. The facility will also have a walking and jogging track, a fitness and cycling studio and a very open feel to it all.

In order to implement all plans, Ellis said it’s important to involve all necessary parties. “We all meet weekly just so we know that everyone is on the same page, because any type of large construction program, you’re going to have hiccups,” explained Ellis. “It’s easier to remedy those when you have all parties involved because if certain individuals aren’t there or represented, it puts a delay on how fast something can be taken care of.”

Communication from every side was key. Ellis said that even with student fees he works to be as transparent as possible, showing the students where exactly their money is going. He even encourages the students to ask and he will explain it to them personally.

Throughout the building process, Ellis explained they set up a camera that displays a live feed of the construction on the rec center’s website. “We put that up so that students can see the progress, because we’re super excited about it, and most of all, we want the students to be excited about it,” he said.

In the end, the biggest reward has been getting the students to be part of it all. Ellis said it’s essential to empower students and help them realize their potential. If that means giving them a voice in renovations and the building of a new facility, so be it.

“The best way to get things done is have a great relationship with your student council and your student board, and to cultivate that relationship that will inspire them to want to do something different, to try something different, to build something different,” said Ellis. “I think that’s the best advice anyone can take. We’re here to serve the students, so give the students something to do that will help serve you.”

Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at heather@peakemedia.com.

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Campus Rec Magazine