Question: To fee or not to fee?
The fate of the most prominent athletics facilities on campus is in the hands of UH students.
Beginning Tuesday, voting will open for students to decide on adding a $45-per-semester fee that will help to fund a rebuild of Robertson Stadium and the renovation of Hofheinz Pavilion.
“We’re sensitive to any increase, but this is also an opportunity for this University,” Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades said.
“You talk about Tier One in terms of the University, but you also talk about Tier One in terms of the athletics. And there are certain investments that had to be made in terms of the University for us to achieve Tier One-status and continue on that path to (becoming) Tier One. Well, the facilities issue for us is huge if UH athletics is going to gain Tier One-status.”
The referendum aims to augment the nearly $60 million raised privately by the Athletics Department to make these projects possible.
According to engineering reports reviewed by the Athletics Department, Robertson only has 18 more months of usefulness.While the report also said that Hofheinz is structurally sound, it is outdated.
“We’re not trying to build anything that we don’t need — this is out of need,” Rhoades said.
“We understand that any cost is substantial. What we told the students is that we’re not going to ask for a penny more than what we need. In order for us to make these projects work, we need to take that $60 million and increase it to the $73- to 75-million mark to do the two facilities.”
Student fees were also used in two of the most recent athletics facility construction projects at North Texas and Florida Atlantic. Both projects cost over $70 million and yielded only one facility. At North Texas, the approved student fee was $10-per-credit hour, meaning a student with a 12-hour course load would pay $120 each semester.
Passing the referendum will also keep admission free to students. During construction, admission will remain free and free transportation to and from games will be provided.
The revenue generated from the new facilities is also expected to help make the athletics department more independent of the University financially.
“In terms of reliance on the University, we’re going to need to continue to generate more revenue and we don’t have the capability to any of that with the current facility,” Rhoades said.
Because of the current construction of the stadium parking garage, parking will not be affected by building a new football stadium or renovating Hofheinz. The stadium parking garage, which will house 2,300 new spaces, is anticipated to open in August, while only 721 spaces would be lost to construction — a net gain of 1,600 parking spaces.
Students that are graduating before the completion of the new facilities will also see a benefit from the referendum passing; fees paid by students will be discounted from the purchase of season tickets after graduating. A student who pays the fee for three semesters would receive a discount of $135 towards the purchase of season tickets. Last season, season tickets for recent graduates — alumni that graduated in the last three years — cost $140.
Also, because of the current state of the economy, the athletics department feels that rates to undertake a project like this are very favorable to get the most out of the money raised.
“Right now, in terms of taking the dollar and spreading it as far as it can go, there’s no better time than right now,” Rhoades said.