Stan State taking new shape

TURLOCK -- This time next year, California State University, Stanislaus, students will be shopping in an expanded bookstore. They'll also be close to working out in a spacious, modern fitness center and playing sports in a large-scale recreation complex.

Construction already has started on the new university bookstore. The $5.5 million project will grow from 5,500 square feet to 12,700 square feet.

Officials expect to break ground in November on the new Student Recreation Complex, a combination of 24 acres of playing fields, stadium, all-weather track and an 18,700-square-foot fitness center. The estimated cost is $16.1 million.

"A whole new facility on campus -- it's another aspect of the college experience," said Brittany Jibby, a communications senior and student body vice president. "It increases our visibility. We can now hold large-scale events, community events, and high school games can play here."

Both projects are integral parts of the ongoing effort to increase the stature of Stanislaus State. Administrators are updating facilities to meet student demands -- students expect to have a one-stop bookstore complete with textbooks, school supplies, university merchandise and other products, such as regular books, magazines and gifts.

They also expect university-level sports facilities -- a place to work out, take exercise classes and play group sports without competing with athletes for time and space. Fitness classes have long wait lists with some sessions going past midnight, said Stacey Morgan-Foster, vice president of student affairs.

"We're trying to provide students comprehensive services at a high quality," she said.

The recreation complex is a big project for many students; they'll begin paying $80 a semester next fall to pay for the facility. They'll be able to use the fitness center, track or fields for free.

Stanislaus State's 8,700 stu- dents pay about $290 in campus fees each semester in addition to tuition. Students approved the rec complex fee by a 2-to-1 ratio during a May 2006 ref- erendum, which saw the highest voter turnout in recent history, student leaders and administra- tors said.

Few donors stepping forward

The athletic department is leading a fund-raising campaign to help pay down the bill students will foot for the complex each semester. Fund raising has been slow, with several donors expressing interest, but making no commitments. People can buy seats in the stadium for $500 or they can name certain rooms, fields or buildings. About 40 of the stadium's 200 seats have been named, Athletic Director Milton Richards said.

The university also can make money by renting out the rec complex. Hosting National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and championships will bring tourism revenue into Turlock.

A committee of students and administrators worked on the rec center's red-and-gold aesthetics, and will monitor the expenditure of the student fee. The complex will be run by student government leaders, not administrators or the athletic department.

Some students aren't happy about paying the additional fee for the complex, saying they won't use the building, but administrators hope that they'll be motivated to use it because their $80-per-semester bill is cheaper than an off-campus gym membership.

"(The rec complex) makes the whole campus a nicer place," Morgan-Foster said. "The overall campus culture will be more vibrant."

The sports complex and bookstore will be built for growth -- the rec center sets aside space to expand and the bookstore's building can be used for something else if the store needs to move into larger digs.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.