Iverson: Opponents lied to defeat rec center

Associated Students President Jeff Iverson heard the bad news late in the evening on Thursday, March 8: The proposed Wildcat Activity Center he worked so hard to get approved by student voters was dead in the water.

He was thoroughly disappointed. He’d hoped to be celebrating the center’s passage by buying his friends and A.S. colleagues drinks at a bar. As it turned out, Iverson spent the evening at home, thinking about all the ways it could have happened differently.

“It sucked pretty bad,” Iverson said. “That’s for sure. There was just too much misinformation out there, and we couldn’t fight against it.”

Judging by their votes, the vast majority of Chico State students weren’t at all convinced the Wildcat Activity Center was worth the $65 million it was supposed to cost. The loud debate about the center—complete with pools, weights, juice bar, pro shop and child care—sparked the second-largest voter turnout in Chico State’s history. About 36 percent of the students voted in the election—this on a campus with an average turnout of half that.

When all the votes were counted, 3,692 students voted against the center, and 1,996 voted for it, or 65 percent to 35 percent.

Looking back, Iverson said he’s sure that the center would have been approved if a coalition of local health club owners hadn’t lobbied so hard against it.

“I know I sound like a sore loser, but the way they handled themselves was way beyond what’s right or fair,” Iverson said. “They were outright lying.”

He pointed out that the health club owners paid Chico State students to pass out flyers all over campus recommending a “no” vote on the rec center. They claimed that once it was built, the cost to students—estimated by proponents at about $320 a year—would actually be three times that.

For now, Iverson has no choice but to let the project die quietly. His one-year term is up in May, and he’s graduating. He remains convinced that students need a new recreation facility, though, and hopes that one will eventually be built.

It’s a hope shared by university President Manuel Esteban. A staunch supporter of the project, he said he was disappointed that it was rejected by students. He said he would follow the lead of next year’s crop of student government officers to find out whether the rec center plans will rise again.

"Obviously, we found out what the students want," Esteban said. "Maybe we were a little too grandiose with the plans. … Next time, we will know what to plan for."