Intramural model not profitable

BY IAN MARTIN | JANUARY 28, 2010 7:30 AM

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With the financial crunch at the UI, many departments are scrambling to balance budgets. But intramurals doesn’t have any problem operating in the red.

Intramurals had expenses of $140,550 last year, operating on only $56,000 in revenue, meaning it had a net loss of $84,550.

Yet, the program does not have a model designed to make money. Instead, intramural officials anticipate losses and are subsidized by Recreational Services, the branch of the UI in charge of intramurals.

Recreational Services business manager Dennis Miller said the majority of the overall revenue for his department comes from the fitness passes sold to students for $80 a semester. And it seems other branches, not just intramurals, rely on students wanting to work out.

“Most of our programs on their own would not be able to make it,” Miller said. “The fitness pass has been able to help us fund and expand things such as intramurals.”

Recreational Services as a whole operates on a budget of $3.4 million, and Miller said the goal is to break even. The department does receive $700,000 in general-education funds, although that money has remained the same over the past 10 years.

This year, Recreational Services is projecting a deficit of around $250,000, because of the cost of the new Campus Recreation & Wellness Center. Miller said there is reserve money they will use to make up for the loss, and with the student fees next year, he anticipates the money will return.

Wayne Fett, a senior associate director of Recreational Services, said officials expect intramurals to lose money.

“Everyone is working together in our department to make things better,” he said. “Our intramural program is very important, just like any of our student programs. That’s why we have no problem supporting intramurals.”

While the program does lose a large sum of money each year, Miller noted the majority of the money the program spends goes to students. Recreational Services is one of the top employers for students on campus, with intramurals making up a large part.

The most money is spent on referees, and flag football is the worst at making money. Because the sport requires three field judges, one scorekeeper, and supervisors at the fields, the department spent at least $14,000 on refs last fall alone.

But Recreational Services defends its pay for referees — who start at $9.43 per game — by justifying the difficulty of the task.

“Officiating is a tough job; you’re not going to find volunteers to come out and get yelled at like officials some times do,” said Mike Widen, an associate director of intramurals.

Almost all the revenue comes from registration money for intramural sports, he said, and raising those fees won’t bring in any more revenue because fewer people would likely play.

“For our main events such as flag football, soccer, and basketball, we can’t charge enough to break even,” he said. “It would be cost prohibitive.”

It seems there is no way for intramurals to make a profit, but no campus would be complete without intramural sports.

And Fett said that if not for intramural sports, there would be no Recreational Services to support it.

“[Intramurals are] what started recreational programming in the past,” he said. “In the ’50s and ’60s, if you looked at campus recreation, intramurals were the base.”

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