THIBODAUX, LA -- Students at Nicholls State University recently approved a fee to fund operations at their new recreation center. The $78-per-semester student fee will be used to pay operational costs for the new rec center, including staff and student salaries, supplies and utility costs.

Although Nicholls students voted in 2003 to pay a $74 rec center fee to cover construction costs for the new facility, then estimated at $9.5 million, land negotiations stalled the center’s construction. Now the estimated construction cost is $18.7 million, and officials said the funds from the original fee will not cover the cost of construction and operations.

“The only way we can generate a source to build the facility is a student-assessed fee,” Eugene Dial, vice president of student affairs and enrollment services, told student reporters. He noted that Nicholls is the only public, four-year university in Louisiana without a student recreation center.

School officials said they will continue collecting the previously approved fee until the university has collected enough money to pay for the facility’s construction. Nicholls has collected $6.6 million since the fee was assessed in 2003. Graduates who paid the original fee will be given access to the new rec center for as many semesters as they paid the student fee, officials said.

The university will not start collecting the new fee until the semester the student recreation center opens, which is slated for fall 2012. Once construction bids are gathered, the project is expected to break ground this November.