Charging alumni to use athletic complex will hurt university

I’m looking forward to playing a game of tennis indoors, swimming a couple of laps in the pool and working out on the new equipment, which we’ve heard described as a “purple and gray” version of Lifetime Fitness, once the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex opens.

But I’m one of the lucky ones because I graduate next year, not this year.

Every senior who graduates this year has experienced the smells, noises and inconveniences of the building’s construction but will most likely never get to use the athletic facilities – at least not without coughing up a lot of cash.

That’s not a fair trade. I know current students haven’t paid directly for the athletic complex, but they’ve paid for it indirectly. The money that was donated for the construction of the complex could also have been put toward scholarships or making tuition more affordable. But most students don’t mind because they know we need a new athletic complex. It’s just too bad seniors won’t get to experience the benefits.

We haven’t even had athletic facilities available this year. Sports teams have been practicing and playing games off campus, and students have been working out under the bleachers. The senior class deserves at least a year of free admission to the new facilities to make up for it.

But I think it would be in the university’s best interests to give every alumnus free access to the new athletic complex. I understand the university needs to make money off the athletic complex, which is why it will probably make alumni pay. The university isn’t considering the fact that alumni donations are more important than money from yearly athletic passes, though.

How do you get alumni to donate? By making them feel like they are still part of the campus. And what better way to make them feel like that than by offering free passes to the athletic complex?

Free access to the complex would draw alumni back to St. Thomas. They could work out in the new facilities, then take a walk around campus and relive old memories. They could talk with some students, grab a bite to eat at the new student center, and then, when that next phone call came asking for money, they’d feel more inclined to donate.

I’ve seen how this process works at other universities. My dad graduated from St. John’s, and we used to go up there as a family when I was younger to use the athletic facilities. He didn’t have to pay anything for himself or the rest of our family.

I’m reluctant to admit St. John’s is better than us at anything, but it did seem to work. My dad felt connected to his school and was more willing to donate because he thought St. John’s treated its alumni well.

In the long run, keeping the athletic facilities free for alumni would pay off at St. Thomas, too. Maintaining a positive relationship with alumni is more important than getting the extra money from alumni memberships.

Katie Broadwell can be reached at

6 Replies to “Charging alumni to use athletic complex will hurt university”

  1. Excellent observation! There should be no charge to alums for any event on campus. We should be leaders in this area not followers. What a great way to promote Alumni-Student mentoring!

  2. Katie, it is unfortunate that some of the information in your opinion piece is incorrent. I think that is due to the university failing to inform students properly on how these new buildings are being funded. The money for the new buildings could not go towards tuition or financial aid. The money was a gift to the university, and the people donating the money said what they wanted it to go toward. The university didn’t have a choice. In fact, if they didn’t start building these new buildings the donors would have pulled their funding. Again, it is too bad that St. Thomas administration couldn’t clearly articulate that to the student body. They rarely articulate anything clearly to the students it seems. I also diasgree with you that alumni should be able to use the new athletic facility. It is a center for students, not former students. If they open it to alumni, is it going to be open to all alumni? How far do you go back? Is it fair to limit the number of alumni? How would you feel if next year you went to work out but all the machines were being used by a bunch of old guys? St. Thomas is a lot larger than St. John’s, and we have a lot more alumni. There are 50,000 Tommies in the Twin Cities alone that would be elegible to use the building. Is that fair for current…

  3. Matt- it’s true that money was donated specifically for the althletic/student center, but I don’t think it’s true that the university itself didn’t contribute money towards it outside of that donation. The donation was $60 million I believe, and I think the center cost at least $66 million to build.

  4. I completely agree with you Katie. Matt, while there may be 50,000 Tommies in the Twin Cities I doubt that they will all capitalize on the opportunity. We as seniors have been apart of this community for at least four years and to be able to continue to use facilities after graduating is a great way to stay connected. I don’t think that every alum will be using the facilities, but they should be able to if they want.

  5. I think the University has a couple options.

    One could be monetarily reimbursing the student body that has had to deal with not having an athletic facility. When we pay to go to school at UST we are paying for the use of all facilities. For an entire year there are almost no athletic facilities on campus, and for a school who clearly understands the need to have facilities, they should understand that it is a large reason people attend St. Thomas, (how many people would come here if there was no athletic facilities)

    Another solution could be to offer at least one year of free services for all students that were affected by the construction and inconvenience of not having athletic facilities. I think that this is the least the university could do.

    Personally the men’s Volleyball team drives 15 minutes away twice a week to practice at a local high school which we were lucky enough to get very cheaply. This is an example that the cost associated with not having the athletic facilities is not just about the convenience.

  6. Nowak has nailed it!

    In my case, I am part of the UST Crew Club. Our training room used during the winter was located at O’Shaughnessy Hall. With the building gone, we had to find other means to maintain in shape through the winter months; this was solved by driving 30+ minutes. How were we affected? We had to cut down our workouts to avoid traffic coming back to campus, not to mention the money spent for gas. One year of membership would be the least UST could do for us. Either way, I feel a great connection to the school and will rather pay UST membership fee than any other fitness center.

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