While a new athletic facility continues to rise on the Cañada College campus in Redwood City, students and members of the school community are concerned space for their interests will be squeezed out by a for-profit gym.
Cañada College students attended a San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday, Oct. 23, and urged officials to host a discussion addressing their fears.
The calls for a discussion with officials come in the wake of those concerned authoring a letter detailing reservations that programming for students will be encroached on by a private athletic club also proposed in the building.
“[San Mateo County Community College District’s] main purpose is to be an ‘academic’ educational resource for our surrounding communities, middle schools, high schools, not an ‘enterprise’ pay-for-membership facility,” said the letter, citing unnamed faculty, staff and community members.
The new 85,000-square-foot kinesiology and wellness facility is under construction, and expected to open in fall 2021. It is planned to accommodate classrooms for health and wellness activities, space for fitness equipment, a basketball gym, offices, swimming pools and a private gym to be operated by a third party, among other amenities.
Similar to the San Mateo Athletic Club in the health and wellness building on the College of San Mateo campus, the facility will house educational and administrative space for the school as well as a private gym operated by Exos, a private company.
Examining designs for the site, those concerned fear the gym component is taking over a majority of the site, said the letter.
“The plans looked like space is being high jacked by the for-profit membership athletic club,” said the letter. “The space is needed for our academic classes for college students, surrounding high school students, middle college students and community members.”
District spokesman Mitch Bailey attempted to offer some assurance that students would be granted equitable access in the site.
“The new Cañada College kinesiology and wellness building will have a generous amount of space for current students and there will be ample space for the academic programs in this discipline to grow and flourish in the years to come,” he said in an email.
Furthermore, college board President Maurice Goodman said conversations about space allocations between officials and concerned members of the Cañada College community have already begun, but trustees are committed to resolving the issue.
“We understand that there is a balance between our enterprise and education goals, but first and foremost we are there to provide services to our students,” he said.
Bailey agreed officials are also dedicated to collaborating and finding a solution which meets the needs of school community members as well as the district’s financial goals. In previous discussions, officials have noted the San Mateo Athletic Club generates millions of dollars in revenue for the district annually.
“The district and college administrations have been meeting with these individuals for some time now to understand and address their concerns and to clear up any misunderstandings,” he said. “These internal conversations have been and continue to be constructive.”
Students at the most recent meeting though expressed dissatisfaction with the discussions so far, and called on trustees to place the issue on a future meeting agenda — to which they complied, said Goodman.
“That’s the only way that we can move forward,” said Goodman, who expected the issue will return for further discussion at a meeting in November.
During the forthcoming meeting, Goodman said officials may preserve the opportunity to take action and amend the space allocations in the building to assure adequate program space is preserved for students.
“We would hope that the board acts as soon as possible, while there is still some opportunity to provide assurances or relief to faculty and staff that would like to ensure students have access — either the same amount, or greater,” he said.
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