Failure of Issue 8 sparks discussion on lack of space at Kent State’s Rec

Dylan Thacker

After several community studies, the city of Kent’s Parks and Recreation Department acknowledged what locals needed: an indoor recreation and wellness center. Issue 8, the Kent City Health and Wellness Center Bond, was then born.

On Nov. 7, the issue failed. Many locals said it wasn’t necessary to build because of the Kent State Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

However, some community members are still fighting for their own space.

“Bottom line, space is woefully short for sports, child care and many other activities,” said Tim Wunderle, a youth sports coordinator for Kent City Schools and community member. “I believe the prices you would pay for a new center are already being paid by many for programs their kids are involved in.”

There are nearly 2,000 non-student, non-faculty locals who have memberships to the center, which can cause the center to feel cramped.

Wunderle said finding space in the gym is frustrating. He feels that by adding a facility to Kent, he and other sports coordinators can save families’ money and travel time.

“I send teams to Tallmadge, Cuyahoga Falls and Ravenna to workout indoors in the offseasons,” Wunderle said. “For all our sports, and many other activities, we beg, borrow and if we can get away with it, we steal as much time from the schools and other venues as we can.”

Some students agree. Brandon Frase, a senior physical education major at Kent State, said the Rec is overcrowded.

“I think that Kent could benefit from more gym space,” he said. “It’s usually so packed that I got an outside membership so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.”

The proposed 72,000-square-foot recreation center for the city would’ve featured an indoor turf field, an elevated walking track and fitness classrooms. It would be located right across Fred Fuller Park, roughly a two-mile drive from campus.

Along with some seeing the facility as unnecessary, money was a factor too. The 28-year bond deal was predicted to cost $2.88 million, but it was expected to generate $17.5 million over the 28-year span. This would have cost an owner of a $100,000 home $88.19 annually, according to the Record-Courier.

Wunderle said the university, which has helped out with some facility rentals and sport activities, is not a long-term solution.

The university is trying to help the problem. Kent State’s planning firm SmithGroupJJR is finalizing a conceptual master plan for a recreation center redesign plan.

“It’s a framework in which if you grow, you have places to grow, if you remain the same you can still renovate,” said Doug Kozma, a co-leader of SmithGroupJJR’s campus planning practice.

The master plan will open up more space for community members to utilize, but the deadline is unknown.

Until then, Issue 8 may just find itself back on the ballot.

“We really haven’t made a decision at this point,” said John Idone, the director of Kent Parks and Recreation. “We may need to rethink the project. If there’s enough interest to put it on the ballot in the future, we will.”

Dylan Thacker is the fitness and recreation reporter. Contact him at [email protected]