Lazy days: Southern hospitality rules at Dixie schools

By Emma Solak / Staff Writer

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Colleges across the country are diving into new recreational facilities — literally. 

While Pitt offers four on-campus fitness centers — Trees Hall, Baierl Student Recreation Center, Bellefield Hall and the newly renovated third floor of the William Pitt Union — universities south of Pennsylvania are amping up their amenities with hot tubs, water slides and lazy rivers.

According to Diane Dahlmann, executive director of MizzouRec Services and Facilities at The University of Missouri, the school’s recreation complex comprises of three historic buildings and a more recent aquatics center. 

In 2001, The University of Missouri held a referendum for students to voice what they wanted to see in the renovations of the older buildings. The students voted to increase their student activities fees to fund the creation of more recreation facilities.

The school now has facilities including the “Tiger Grotto,” featuring a zero-depth pool with a high-powered vortex, lazy river and waterfall. “Truman’s Pond” is the campus beach club and outdoor pool, complete with floating lounge chairs, couches and music, according to the MizzouRec website. 

Such facilities are unlikely to be found at Pitt in the future — obviously because of the school’s geographical climate — but are, nonetheless, becoming a growing trend at universities. 

Student surveys revealed that a space for relaxation would benefit student life on campus, Dahlmann said. With input from the students, the new facility was built to represent the specific culture of the Mizzou community. 

“We chose to develop the interior spaces and features in a resort style that would take a student ‘away’ while still being in the middle of the campus,” Dahlmann said. “The spaces are deliberately fun and sexy so that a student has a tough choice to make between coming to the Rec and hitting the bars or parties.”

To financially support the project, Dahlmann said the students voted in the referendum on an increase of $75 per semester to their activities fee. Today, the total fee is $140 per semester.

At Pitt, full-time students pay a student activity fee of $160 for the academic year.

These amenities might have a short-term effect on mental health and stress relief, but won’t have much of an impact in the long run, according to Kevin Binning, assistant professor of psychology.

“You get accustomed to what you have available,” Binning said. “It might help with building camaraderie amongst students who use the facilities together and create attachment to the university, but I would be surprised if it had a long-term effect on well being.”

Pitt has two pools on campus, one in Trees Hall and one in Bellefield Hall, which are used for physical education classes, intramural, club and varsity practices, as well as recreational swim hours for students. 

The University of Alabama offers its students features similar to Missouri.

At Alabama, students can also relax on a lazy river or splash around in the school’s outdoor pool, including a water slide, according to the school’s student recreation center website. 

Kristen Durham, director of university recreational services at Alabama, said, as of 2004, the recreation fee for students is included in tuition and the rest is covered in allocations. There is not a set amount each student must pay. 

Tuition for a full-time student at University of Alabama is $4,913 for in-state residents and $12,475 for nonresidents.

Madeline Malone, a sophomore studying chemical engineering and pre-med at Alabama, said she has never used the lazy river or water slide at her school, but feels they are assets. 

“I do like having a lazy river and a water slide. I think it’s a good feature that draws people’s attention. I think the school thought that they would be very popular features, so they added it,” Malone said. “I think they provide a place to relax for students, especially when it gets hot out and during the summer months.”

Louisiana State University is following the trend, too. 

According to the school’s recreation website, renovations are set to be completed in the fall of 2016, and will include an indoor and outdoor lap pool, as well as an outdoor recreational pool built in the form of the letters “L S U” in the school’s signature font. 

A sun deck featuring lounging space, umbrellas and drinking fountains will also be part of the new aquatics center. The plan is projected to cost $84.75 million. Student recreational fees will increase by $45 per semester over the course of three years, eventually resulting in a $200 recreation fee for students per semester.

Sayem Imam, a sophomore studying neuroscience at Pitt, said he wouldn’t want these features because it “would be distracting.”

Emma Feyler, a sophomore linguistics and urban studies major, mostly agreed with Imam, but said although the additions would be novel, they would not be practical.

“I’d use a hot tub,” Feyler said. “It’d be relaxing when I was stressed from exams. I feel like it would be cool to have, but I would never use it [enough].”

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