Get psyched, L.A., because combined with 4,000 square feet of already new and enhanced fitness equipment at IM East, the new IM West fitness center boasts another 13,000 square feet for fitness and strength training gear. Providing a two-level climate-controlled facility with a surround sound stereo system, a redesigned equipment checkout center, a refreshment lounge and newly renovated locker rooms, IM West is now the place to be for anyone even remotely interested in getting in shape.
[tv]But is it worth $5.5 million?
The “IM sports fit for all” catalog praises the Department of Intramural Sports and Recreative Services as providing “Simply, the Best Facility at the Best Price.” But what kind of college students would we be if we simply accepted this PR statement as truth (probably ones that haven’t benefited all that much from this institution of so-called higher education)?
So once again I question if 13,000 square feet of fitness equipment is really worth $5.5 million?
In a society where over two-thirds of the population is considered at least overweight, not to mention obese or severely obese, a mere $5.5 million compared to MSU’s $8 billion budget doesn’t seem like much after all. Because in spite of statistics, experts still say good health is something you can benefit from for the rest of your life.
And the old facilities simply weren’t good enough for students’ ever-changing demands. “We renovated primarily because of space; we didn’t have enough for the number of students that wanted strength and cardiovascular training,” said Patty Oehmke, assistant director of Intramural Sports and Recreative Services, in charge of the new IM West fitness center. “The weight-lifting industry has changed significantly in the past 20, 25 years or so and most of what we had was from when the building was built in the 1950s.”
So after a year of much-needed reconstruction, and more than 180 new weight and cardiovascular machines, four plasma TVs, 24 elliptical running machines and 24 treadmills later, it seems as though MSU has finally updated its facilities enough to start attracting a larger audience.
But even if $5.5 million doesn’t burn all that large a hole in MSU’s wallet, it’s still enough that one wonders where all this money came from.[bells]
When IM appealed to ASMSU saying they had about three-quarters of the money needed to buy equipment, ASMSU donated $50,000 from its risk management account. “Money in that account is set aside for sustainable projects, projects that will carry impact on the community,” said Andrew Schepers, chairperson of ASMSU’s student assembly. “The facilities really needed to be renovated and we felt that it was time for us to be part of the process.”
And these renovations have at least made an impact on the lives of those who frequent IM West. “I feel like West has the best weight room in East Lansing; it has everything I need to work out,” said business and Spanish junior Bret Burton.
Maybe MSU does house the best weight room in East Lansing. In fact Schepers said you just have to look at other campuses across the state, look at their iron facilities and see it’s only now that our facilities are up to par. “And the great thing is that you don’t have to pay for it as a part of tuition, there’s really no fee unless you want to use the facilities,” said Schepers.
This is because not only the new weight room in IM West, but equipment use at East and Circle requires membership, a tiny sticker on your student ID that costs a whopping $75 a semester. Students, faculty, staff and alumni can also buy one-day passes for $3, but $75 does seem like a lot when we already pay so much to live, eat, sleep and learn at MSU.
General complaints about the price of IM memberships often end with how great other schools are and how, at other schools, you don’t have to pay to use their dumbbells. But in fact, schools in the Big Ten are split on this expensive issue. Like MSU, University of Michigan and University of Iowa require membership fees.
But Indiana University, The Ohio State University, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, Northwestern, The Pennsylvania State University and Purdue University all provide free usage of all fitness facilities as long as students have paid their equivalent to our $16.75 ASMSU tax. “Our rates are very comparable to other institutions that charge for membership and don’t roll charges into student fees,” said Oehmke. “Our fees mirror quality.”
So, in a sense, everybody pays to use equipment at their respective schools, just in different ways. And for students who would rather not run on a treadmill while watching DVDs or roll around on a mat with one of those Pilates balls, they don’t have to pay the price for other students’ health benefits.[desk]
But what about those personalized TV screens, DVD players and CD players attached to individual treadmills and elliptical running machines that were obviously a part of the $5.5 million spent on making IM West a better place to work out? They do seem a little extravagant compared to the outdoor runner’s headphones and cheap MP3 player.
Yet there have been study results showing that doing something other than just running is more than just an attraction; it’s an essential part of the physical fitness process. And Schepers said even though ASMSU money was not used to buy any of the 60 entertainment systems, it made sense for the folks at IM to go ahead and do that, especially since it’s something a lot of people wanted.
So I guess, L.A., for once I agree. The university has finally dropped what seems like a few pennies on the ground to better not only the institution itself but also those who are a part of it. “These new facilities are great for people like me that aren’t involved in sports but want to stay in shape,” said criminal justice freshman Sterling Raehtz. “Some money really got put to great use.”
It’s not like MSU’s helped the homeless or fed the hungry yet, but for once, I think this is a project that will have a powerfully positive impact on more than just a few students; it has the potential of serving everyone. Because as Schepers said, “It’s not how many people we affect each day but how many people we’ll affect in five, ten years down the road.”
Spending A. Greed

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