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Published: Sunday, 3/29/2009

BGSU undergrads approve fee to help build new campus arena

BLADE STAFF

BOWLING GREEN - Undergraduate students at Bowling Green State University voted to approve a fee to help finance construction of a new campus arena, the university announced Saturday.

In online voting Friday, 2,630 students cast ballots in favor of the $60-per-semester fee, and 1,182 opposed it. About 28 percent of the eligible student population voted, according to university figures.

The Friday ballot results upheld a vote the Undergraduate Student Government took on Feb. 23 endorsing the fee, which will be used to service debt incurred to pay for the planned 4,700-seat Stroh Center.

The referendum was held after a group of students gathered enough signatures to put the issue to a vote. Public universities must get an OK from the Ohio Board of Regents before they can raise fees, and a show of student support is a requirement for that approval.

The ballot issue specifically asked students whether the student government's resolution of support for the fee should be overturned. To repeal the student government action, a simple majority of at least 10 percent of the student body needed to vote yes.

Student Government President John Waynick expressed satisfaction at the results of the balloting.

"I feel terrific," he said. "I think this was not only a huge win for student government, but for Bowling Green State University for years to come."

He noted that voting patterns in the referendum and student government closely tracked each other, demonstrating "that the student government does reflect the student body."

The student referendum vote was about 69 percent in favor of the fee; the student government figure was 66 percent.

Richard C. Ehrbar III, spokesman for the group BGSU Students for a Stroh Center Referendum, couldn't be reached. His group did not take an official position for or against the fee but wanted it to be subject to a student vote.

Carol Cartwright, BGSU's president, visited campus residence halls last week to rally support for the arena and said yesterday, "We're extremely gratified that our students have demonstrated their support for the Stroh Center. They clearly understand that the project is critical to the future of BGSU."

The 131,000-square-foot Stroh Center is to be just off Wooster Street near Doyt L. Perry Stadium. It is to replace Anderson Arena as the home for basketball and volleyball games and is to be used for concerts, commencement ceremonies, and other events. The $36-million facility will be named for Kermit and Mary Lu Stroh, longtime supporters of the university who donated almost $8 million for the project.

Collection of the new student fee, $10 of which will be dedicated to new student parking, won't start until the arena is finished in late 2011. The fee will be dropped when the Stroh Center's debt is retired in 20 years or less. Construction is slated to begin in the fall.



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