Updates from NIRSA Members two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
The news from recreation departments at hurricane-impacted schools is largely good, with some areas still on the mend
Loyola’s swimming pool after $130,000 worth of repairs
Loyola’s new wood courts and aerobics room floors, which had to be torn out and replaced due to water damage
Tulane’s primary intramural field immediately after the storm.
The same field now, at night.
Roof damage to Tulane’s natatorium.
The natatorium after repairs.
NIRSA National Center staff recently communicated with leaders of campus recreation departments in states affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in fall 2005. Their reports show that while the hardest-hit areas continue to feel the long-term effects of the storms, most schools are operating as they were before Katrina and Rita.
NIRSA's immediate response to the storms included a one-year waiver of member dues and registration fees for NIRSA Members in five hurricane-impacted states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) who were directly impacted by hurricane damage, including members who provided refuge and material support to those in need. This relief was extended in 2006 for another year.
NIRSA would like to thank all members for their support of each other in the two years following the hurricanes, and wish those institutions that are still rebuilding continued success in their efforts.
Below are updates from some of the members contacted (listed alphabetically by institution).
Lamar University (Texas) — Barry Johnson, Vice President, Student Affairs
- Impacted by Rita. University as a whole suffered roughly $50 million in damage. At the time, their new rec sports facility was under construction. They were in a temporary facility and that facility (which was an old dormitory) did not receive much damage. The new facility was only a shell of the old building at the time and fortunately did not suffer much damage. Have since completed construction and moved into their new facility last spring. The new facility has resulted in higher rec center attendance than before.
- Things at their university are finally almost back to normal, enrollment is returning to normal. Right after Rita hit, they president of the university got permission to rebuild immediately. Started the rebuilding process and immediately began reconstruction the Monday after Rita hit. Dismissed classes on the Wednesday afternoon prior to Rita hitting and picked back up in the middle of October (exactly a month later).
- Things at their university are "finally almost back to normal"; enrollment is returning to normal.
- Budgets are back to normal.
Loyola University New Orleans — Germayne Turner Nash, Associate Director
- Functioning "as well as can be expected."
- Student staffing level is low due to better paying jobs elsewhere.
- Enrollment is down significantly, particularly of first-year students.
- Facility usage is up, which they attribute to "the fact that people who live in New Orleans need an outlet for the many frustrations we face in our day-to-day living."
- Following funding for two new positions, they expect to soon be fully staffed for the first time in years.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College — Wayne Taylor, Outdoor Recreation
- Forty miles from the eye, they got water and wind but not the big wave. They did have a 10-foot tidal surge, which affected the back of the college (a natural area). Had $800 million worth of water damage; wind ripped part of their roof off.
- Just this fall returned to 2004 enrollment numbers.
- They are better off now than they were before. They got money for some new items (ping pong tables, treadmills, elliptical trainers), providing a better situation in the rec center than before Katrina. A ropes course was constructed in the summer of 2006.
- Budgets are back to normal. Was really strapped for a while, but access to a portion of registration fees has allowed them to hire two interns; they were also able to fill a Coordinator of Campus Recreation position.
Tulane University — Mary "Missie" McGuire, Assistant VP, Campus Recreation & Student Centers
- They had direct damage at the Riley Student Rec Center. Most of the damage was caused by flooding. Everything at the ground level sustained water damage and had to be replaced. Had damage to the roof over the natatorium. Other minor damages from leaks were wind-related. Also lost vehicles that were critical to support of departmental programs (two club sport vans and a departmental pickup truck).
- Campus recreation was the first department on the university campus to re-open, in October 2005. Eight weeks after the storm, the campus rec staff was brought back. They opened their rec building to university constituents who were required to be on campus. They were able to resume normal operations in January 2006. The biggest hit was to lose students in the fall semester. The first year after Katrina/Rita showed the biggest drop in student enrollment.
- Did not have any budgets cut, and are continuing to offer the same programs as prior to Katrina and Rita.
- Enrollment is bouncing back much more quickly than the university had anticipated. Since the rec center budget is based upon assessed student fees, it is critical to recapture the student population.
- Would like to share that "The NIRSA Institutional support that we've received has been phenomenal. I have great pride to be part of an association that was there to help us when the chips were down."
- Tulane was voted one of the top 25 hottest schools on the rebound; it was "a great boon to be recognized for making a quick recovery, taking something bad and making a positive out of it." Now, all incoming students are required to do community service as part of their undergraduate degree requirements. The university is attracting very socially engaged, involved students to the campus.
University of New Orleans — Jody Duvernay, Associate Director
- The gymnasium and racquetball courts are still closed due to no flooring in these areas; likewise, the professional staff offices have no carpeting. On a brighter note, the natatorium, indoor running track, multipurpose rooms and fitness areas are up and running smoothly. They hope to be back to "normal" by late spring/early summer 2008.
- Student enrollment is down by about 5,000 students; professional staff in the rec department has changed from six to three full-time staff members. Their post-Katrina re-opening date was June 12, 2006. They surveyed their members recently and found they had a higher participation rate with this survey than any surveys previously conducted. Furthermore, the survey results indicated a very high satisfaction rating with the facility as a whole. Many students, faculty, staff and community members have expressed sincere gratitude for just having the rec center open and available to them. Intramural participation is greater than it was pre-Katrina, and while club sports are fewer in number, the actual number of participants in the clubs that are active is steady.
University of Southern Mississippi — Mike Giles, Sr., Director
- The school was directly impacted; Hattiesburg had over 4 hours of 100 mph winds during the storm. The university suffered significant damage and was closed for about ten days.
- They are back up and doing better. The experience gave them an opportunity to review some of their processes and functions. The coast branch of their university is not quite back to what it was, but they have been able to return to campus for classes this year (the first year since Katrina).
- Rec center attendance is not quite back because their student enrollment is not quite back to pre-Katrina levels. The year of the storm, they had record enrollment; many of their students come from south Mississippi and New Orleans. They are still struggling to get back, but are much closer this year than they were last year.
- Budget is close to being back to normal.
- Would like to share that "The wonderful relief that NIRSA provided the schools allowed us to bring more people to the regional and national meetings over the last two years than we've ever been able to in the past, and we will be forever grateful to our national organization for that."
University of West Alabama — Jason Gardner, Director
- Their rec facility didn't have direct damage but their university had substantial roof damage and power outages.
- Things are running as well as they were pre-Katrina, and rec center attendance is back to pre-Katrina levels.