Planning Underway for the University Y

At the beginning of Winter quarter, it was announced that UWT has partnered with the YMCA to build a student center where Longeshoreman’s Hall currently stands. Since then, details have been provided as to the planning and funding of this project and how students will be involved.

The Student Center, which is currently being called the University Y, will include a full service YMCA and student spaces the campus currently lacks. Student Involvement, event space, study space, and food will all be located in the new building, although many details as to how exactly this will look are still to be decided.

Plans for a student center have been in development since the Campus Master Plan was produced in 2008. A student center was in the top three desired amenities, after student housing and a health center.

“Having a centralized area on campus will provide more fluidity between students,” said Rai Nauman Mumtaz, Vice President of ASUWT.

Mumtaz has been involved in the planning of a student center since the idea was conceived in 2006, and he was able to provide the details of how the UWT and YMCA partnership came into fruition.

It was initially assumed that the building would be funded entirely by students. However, Chancellor Debra Friedman, who has prioritized community partnership throughout her time at UWT, viewed the increased cost to students as inconceivable, and the search began for a partner in the community.

“This partnership grows out of the fact that we are an urban serving university,” said Friedman during the University Y Open Public Forum, held in Longshoreman’s Hall on January 23. “Having porous boundaries is the mission of UWT.”

The YMCA partnership will offset the cost by millions of dollars, and the Student Activities fee will be raised between $130-$180, as opposed to over $300. The raise in student fees is still to be decided, however, based on student input which will be persistently solicited by administration and ASUWT. Surveys, forums, Facebook pages, and other such methods are being discussed, in an attempt to most effectively obtain extensive feedback.

“We really want students to be able to have a lot of input in this,” said Kelly Mooney, ASUWT Senator, and member of the Student Center Planning Committee, which meets weekly.

The cost will also be offset by money the Student Activities Fee Committee (SAFC) put aside in 2006, when conversations about a student center first began; philanthropy is also hoped to significantly reduce cost to students.

Once the fee increase is approved by the SAFC,  and then the Chancellor, it will go to the Board of Regents. If all goes as planned they will approve the fee by June, and a design plan will soon be underway.  The student fee increase, however, will not be raised until the doors of the student center open.

The design process will follow the model of the Prairie Line Trail, with students involved in every step, and with all feedback taken into account during planning. There will also be a Student Design Committee, who will be involved in approving the design team, as well as the designs that are produced. SAFC is currently searching for a student, preferably a freshman or sophomore who will be here throughout the process, to serve on the committee.

Students will own the building and design the Student Union portion, while the YMCA will cover operating fees and design the recreational facilities. Their design, however, will still be focused on student input, as they emphasized at the University Y open public forum.

“You’re our market, so we will be doing research and asking what you want,” said Bob Ecklund, President and CEO of Pierce County and Kitsap YMCAs.

Currently, the University Y is planned to resemble the YMCA in Gig Harbor, but without the pool, as this would add unnecessary expense. Students will have access to all Pierce County YMCAs, though, and can swim at any of those locations.

During the open public forum, Ed Mirecki, Director of Student Involvement, laid out the proposed timeline, and the hope is that UWT will have a student center by fall of 2015.