UH alumni first invited, then barred, from new recreation center

Published: Apr. 15, 2014 at 5:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii-Manoa's new recreation center, which opened after 16 months of delays on Friday, is off limits to alumni for now, in spite of initial UH announcements to the contrary.

The $34 million Warrior Recreation Center features a gym, workout facilities, basketball courts, a track and locker rooms.

It's free for students at UH's flagship Manoa campus, since they already pay a $175-a-semester fee to support the center.

Last month, the UH told Hawaii News Now and other media that alumni and staff could try out the center free during its first two weeks of operation to see if they wanted to pay membership fees to join.

"Faculty, staff, alumni, systems and other UH affiliates will be able to enter the facility without purchasing a membership for the first two weeks," said UH Manoa spokeswoman Tracy Orillo-Donovan in a written statement to Hawaii News Now March 18.

That offer interested Noelani Bonifacio, an aide to State Sen. Sam Slom and a 2011 UH Manoa graduate.

She confirmed the deal with the new facility's staff at the grand opening ceremonies Friday and then returned Saturday for a trial workout.

"The employees are telling us that we could get in and we're hearing all the publicity about it and when I showed up, they wouldn't let me," Bonifacio said.

Front desk staff told her they were still working out a way to verify UH graduates so she couldn't go in, which is exactly what one of the student front-desk managers told Hawaii News Now Monday.

"That's just because we don't have foolproof system to verify whether they graduated from here," said Regine Estrella, a UH junior and rec center front-desk manager.

Estrella said there had been plans for alumni to sample the gym for free and join for $300 a year, but those plans suddenly were nixed on Friday, the day the facility opened.

"It was a last-minute change," Estrella said.  "We had to scrap all of our membership forms and make new ones that didn't include alumni in our UH affiliates category."

Lloyd Hisaka, the director of student recreation services at UH Manoa, said told Hawaii News Now by phone the information the staff is giving out is wrong.

Hisaka said the new center wants to take care of students first, followed by faculty and staff and by April 26, center officials will decide whether it has the capacity to handle alumni.

"Right now, we want to know what the capacity is," Hisaka said.  "We need to make sure students, faculty and staff are settled first.

Bonifacio said she'd left phone messages and sent emails to various UH officials for an explanation Monday morning.  Some of the phone numbers given out by UH officials weren't working yet, because some of the land lines in the new building are not hooked up.

"Right now, it's completely disorganized and that's completely unacceptable after how much money has gone into the center, how many student fees we've been paying and after all of the delays," Bonifacio said.

Bonifacio's boss, State Sen. Sam Slom, said the situation is typical of UH projects.

"They're not well thought-out, they're not well planned and Lord knows, they have enough money to do it. Particularly with delays and change orders and all that stuff.  It's just not acceptable," Slom said.

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