1000 E University Ave
Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2379
Fax: (307) 766-6729
It's hard to imagine, but Jon Hunzeker and fellow members of the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming (ASUW) can be considered pioneers of sorts -- not in the sense that they came to UW in covered wagons, but they blazed a trail that will create a lasting legacy for future generations of students.
Hunzeker, ASUW director of government affairs, and ASUW President Megan Degenfelder led the effort to help UW secure state legislative support for a major renovation project for the venerable Half Acre Gym. ASUW Vice President Ty McNamee also played a key role in his lobbying efforts to get senators and students behind the project.
And wherever Hunzeker's law degree takes him, he is certain to return to UW to see what he and his fellow ASUW members helped create. He is a second-year law student from Scottsbluff, Neb.
A construction timeframe has not yet been set, but legislators recently committed $15 million in state funds for the project, while student fees will contribute another $12 million toward the $27 million project. By the time the project is completed, Half Acre Gym, which originally opened in 1925, will no longer resemble the facility where legendary UW basketball player Kenny Sailors displayed his one-of-a-kind jump shot.
McNamee, an English senior from Shoshoni, adds, "I felt immensely proud of our state and the university because we rallied around something that was important and carried out a project that has been in the works for almost five years."
Half Acre is home to the Campus Recreation Department -- club and intramural sports, group fitness, aquatics and the Outdoor Program. Half Acre, which hosts academic courses in such areas as kinesiology and health, theatre and dance and the ROTC program, is used regularly by a variety of on- and off-campus departments and groups, says Pat Moran, Campus Recreation director.
Among the planned improvements are academic spaces; an updated theater and dance studio; four new racquetball courts with glass back walls for observation and instruction; expanded Outdoor Program space with a 35-foot-tall pinnacle wall; expanded cardiovascular exercise and weight training areas including a new and improved large fitness area on the first floor and additional smaller, more private fitness spaces on the second and third floors; new locker rooms; and, in addition to the traditional wood-floor court of Half Acre, a new multi-activity court gymnasium.
The Half Acre renovation process began in 2007, before the possibility of state funding was considered, Degenfelder says. In spring 2007, ASUW encouraged phase I planning, and in spring 2008 allocated $100,000 for a consultant firm. With no luck to get private donations to fund the project, ASUW voted to increase the student fee $120 per year to support $15 million of the project, Degenfelder says, and go before state legislators for the other $12 million.
With the advice of Moran and Don Richards, vice president for government and community affairs, Hunzeker and Degenfelder began seeking legislative funding. Their efforts included constant contact with local legislators; at least a dozen tours of Half Acre for elected officials; presentations to the State Building Commission; attendance at meetings throughout the legislative process, including the Joint Appropriations Committee; a meeting with Gov. Matt Mead; and "piles of hand-written thank you cards."
Their reward -- the Legislature agreed this past session to fund $15 million of the total, while UW students will now contribute $12 million for the project. That means a smaller increase in student fees of only $84 per year for the Half Acre project.
"It proves the voice of the students at the University of Wyoming does have an impact, and that if we make that voice one and work hard, we will see results," Degenfelder says. "We can be the change we wish to see on the campus, and this story of success should motivate future student leaders."
Above is a computer generated image of what the East side of Half Acre Gym will look like after the renovations and additions are finished.