Deteriorating facilities plague campus
RIVER FALLS—One of the most obvious ways to experience the
impact of budget cuts at UW-River Falls is to tour the deteriorating
Karges Center and Nelson Hall, the home to the health and human
Dean Connie Foster of the College of Education and Professional
Studies doesn't mince words about the facilities, that along with
a third building, serve some 8,000 students and community members
each year: "They are horrendous."
|UW-River Falls students must take their
tests using Knowles Center lobby window seats, walls or floors
because of a lack of classrooms. The facility, built in 1987,
serves thousands of students and community members each year.
Fiscal problems prevented the construction of classrooms. They
may be added by 2010 if a funding proposal gets on track.
Karges was built in 1959 for 1,500 students and before the women's
athletics program was established. Its cramped size has placed some
faculty offices in old closets; its three classrooms have poor ventilation;
its pool breaks down each year; its racquetball courts will soon
have to be abandoned; and the crowding in its undersized gymnasium
during athletic events can be worrisome to athletes and fans.
Nelson is a converted food service building constructed in 1963.
It receives little classroom use because of deteriorating conditions
and background noise interference from adjoining physical education
A third facility, the Knowles Physical Education and Recreation
Building, was constructed in 1987. Due to budget constraints then,
it was constructed without classrooms and its locker and training
rooms were dramatically down-sized. Today, students must take their
tests sprawled on its floors, sitting in lobby window seats, or
using walls for writing platforms.
Some of the deficiencies have been documented for more than 30
"Many students complain that their
high schools had better facilities."
—Dean Connie Foster,
College of Education and Professional Studies
Foster and the department's faculty, staff and students had hoped
a solution would soon be at hand. State budget cuts, however, have
set back plans for a replacement building for Nelson and Karges,
and improvements to Knowles, perhaps to the year 2010.
That's if the project can get back on track, Foster says.
Foster says that the glacial process to replace Karges and Nelson
formally began more than 11 years ago. Authority to plan the building
was granted two years ago—but without the money to pay for it. The
soonest that can occur is in the 2005-07 biennial budget, with construction
starting sometime after the start of the 2007 budget year.
In the meantime, the campus is confronted with more than $750,000
in deferred maintenance. Foster agrees that it doesn't make sense
to sink money into facilities that are slated for demolition.
For the department's 300 majors and 400 minors, though, "It's
like being in a Third World country," Foster opines.
football team members are crammed into the men's locker room
of the Knowles Center. Built in 1987, the facility was downsized
by 30,000 square feet because of budget constraints. The lockers
and other building services may be increased in size by 2010
if project funding gets on track.
Foster is quick to note that the department's students and faculty
are more flexible in accommodating the problems. It’s the balance
of the student body, which must use the buildings for academic classes
and recreation, who aren't understanding.
"Many of them complain that their high schools had better
facilities," Foster reports.
Another irony of the construction delay, Foster adds, is that the
campus' student leadership demonstrated fiscal responsibility on
another campus project that is now harming them in health and human
She points out that students are funding a new student center
that will begin groundbreaking this spring. During its planning
process, they decided not to include a recreational component in
that project because of their concerns about the burden to the campus
in maintaining two facilities.
"They decided to tie their needs to the health and human performance
building. It just made sense to do that. So now our students have
lost everything. They won't have a recreational facility."