The case of the SF State Recreation Department is a peculiar one. While it grows ever-larger and more rapidly than any other group on campus, the reach of its resources is actually getting thinner.
The department collects student fees of $9 per semester to cover facilities, equipment and wages for employees, which is less than most students pay for dinner on campus.
“People spend more on food in one day than it takes to run our department,” said Ajani Byrd, campus recreation director. “(We) run less than a meal deal at McDonald’s costs.”
Almost all of these teams can be found playing or practicing in the gym because despite growing participation, funding restricts alternative options. Teams involved with the campus Recreation Department are prohibited from using Cox Stadium and other outside sites on campus such as the quad or baseball fields.
“Field space is a major issue for our sports,” said Ryan Fetzer, intramural and sports club coordinator. “This department is very impacted…we’re not allowed access to Cox Stadium or other campus facilities except for the gym.”
There are 11 club and three intramural sports that use the gym for games and practices. Soccer, lacrosse and rugby are three club sports that struggle with this limitation; typically, these sports are played outdoors in large spaces.
“It would be great if we could play outside,” said Emily Clark, a senior at SF State who has played intramural soccer for two semesters. “It gets really hot in the gym and (indoor soccer) is totally different than outdoor.”
More than 70 of the department’s employees are students, who participate in athletic events such as refereeing soccer games.
“I believe in putting money back into your pockets,” said Byrd, who emphasized the importance of the program being student-run. “All student positions develop leadership.”
Ajani said it’s important to keep the Recreation Department’s services relevant because it provides students with the opportunity to release stress and tension. The department provides as much equipment and facility use as possible, but if a team exceeds resources it must find ways to cover the rest of the finances. He said the minimal funding the department receives is sufficient, but in the future there will need to be an increase.
These increases will come from the set student fee committed to the department. Because the money comes from student fees, tuition increases are extraneous to the department’s funding.
“I do not want to ask for more money from students,” Ajani said. “But we’ve grown exponentially, so I try to spread that money thin. I break pennies in half.”
Ajani said the budding program struggles with time and space restraints that come from using the gym, which is shared among the recreation, kinesiology and athletics departments, plus a few academic classrooms.
In 2009 Associated Students Inc. cleared a student petition for the construction of a recreation center; the building’s estimated completion is 2017. ASI took up the project to expand space for recreational activities and to create an entertainment venue.
“There’s not really any other venue to support (recreational sports),” said Franko Ali, ASI vice president of university affairs. “Making more space for recreational sports was a big part of why (the project) was pursued.”
The construction for the recreation center is a multimillion dollar project that will take years to complete, but Ali said the process has started. Students pay a $35 fee included in their tuition to help fund the construction, but Ali said that fee would probably be increased when construction starts.
“One aspect is that a lot of students won’t see (the center) through completion,” Ali said. “An aspect under consideration is to allow alumni access to it.”
Once the center is built, Ali said a committee would be assembled to decide final funding and access.
Until the center is complete, the Recreation Department has looked into alternative possibilities within budget to provide more space for their programs. Byrd and Fetzer said the department has looked into off-campus facilities.
“We’ve looked at other options,” said Fetzer, who also commented that any alternatives would need further funding. “Like renting out the field at Lowell (High School) or gaining access to Cox Stadium.”
Fetzer said club and intramural sports aren’t permitted to use Cox Stadium and the baseball fields because official athletic games take priority and there is concern the field will be further damaged. Byrd said the current facilities are sufficient, but eventually there will be a need to expand both financially and spatially.
“I’d rather be outdoors, obviously,” Clark said. “But I’m just happy I get the chance to play.”