Education

Portland State Expands With New Rec Center

OPB | Aug. 6, 2007 10:41 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:19 a.m. | Portland, OR

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By Rob Manning

Portland State is already the largest university in Oregon — but it expects to grow  even bigger in the years to come. And there are parts of the campus that aren't ready.

This morning, amid light rail lines and heavy construction equipment, officials with the university, the city of Portland, and the state of Oregon, celebrated the latest effort to get ahead of the growth. Rob Manning reports on how a project for a new recreation center got supersized.


If you want to see a ground-up, rather than a top-down, project, look at the new center P.S.U. is building. It started with students: unhappy — and possibly out-of-shape. Student body vice president, Rudy Soto says full-time students had a big problem with the current phys ed building.

Rudy Soto: “They're overloaded there at that facility. That's where PE classes are held, intramural programs, and also athletics - so sporting events, basketball games, volleyball games, all that happens there. And it's really not that big.
We have 24-thousand students at Portland State, and so having this place - that's going to free up a lot of time for students to be able to exercise.”

A few years ago, students put their money where their impatience was and approved a fee increase to cover a new recreation center.

Behind Soto, students are getting a taste of the exercise they might get in years to come. They're swinging 16-pound sledgehammers into a wall of the squat building that will give way to the new facility. Over loudspeakers, university officials announced city and state leaders as they donned hard hats and swung hammers.

Mark Gregory is P.S.U.'s associate vice president for strategic planning. He says much like the fun of knocking down a building - a new downtown building can attract interest fast.

Mark Gregory: “The chancellor's office joined us to get the chancellor's office space. In addition to that, at nearly the last moment, the city joined us to move their city archives from its inaccessible, or less accessible location, to this downtown location.”

City commissioner Randy Leonard says now Portlanders get lost looking around North Portland for the archives. And he says police waste time driving there to retrieve records. As a former P.S.U. history student, Leonard can't contain his excitement.

Randy Leonard: “So it contains all of Portland's records, including the minutes of the city council in 1851. It contains thousands and thousands of historical photos - and all of that will be located here. in a floor that will be constructed especially for the archives, that will include a research center for citizens, with computers…”

Leonard says buying a floor of the new P.S.U. building will cost at least $3 million less than a new city building.

P.S.U. vice president, Mark Gregory says involving outside funders like the city and Portland Development Commission created a domino effect.

Mark Gregory: “We realized by bringing them into the project, we could get a bond match through the state to move in our school of social work, as well. It's the only school of social work in the state, it's producing all the social workers for the state of Oregon. And so, that combination of a city partnership, chancellor's office, P.D.C., students, university dollars, and then finally, the state at the end, we were able to put the whole thing together.”

The bottom-up deal is on an ambitious two-year time schedule. The building has to fit into a tight spot, hemmed in by light rail and streetcar lines, and other university buildings. Not quite as easy as swinging a hammer and watching the bricks fly.

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