WALPOLE (AP) – University of Maine System trustees have OK’d construction of a $25 million sport and fitness center at the system’s flagship campus in Orono.

The 85,000-square-foot facility, to be funded by student and user fees, is expected to be completed in 2006. Student fees will then rise by $90 per semester. It will include an indoor swimming pool, two racquetball courts, a jogging track, weight-training and fitness machines, a whirlpool, sauna and two multipurpose rooms.

, a juice bar and locker rooms.

The state-of-the-art center will help recruit and retain students, promote health and wellness, and provide additional campus activities as well as a social venue, according officials told the UMS board of trustees Monday.

“It adds an element to campus life that we just don’t have,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Robert Kennedy.

Currently, university athletes as well as students involved in fitness and recreational activities share the Latti Center on campus.

UMaine President Peter Hoff said the idea for a new recreation center has been under consideration for up to 10 years, but he decided that the project should not move forward until students gave it their endorsement.

During the past few years, “students really stepped up and said they were interested in doing it and paying for it. It’s that important to them,” said UMS trustee and student body president Matt Rodrigue.

A poll of 2,900 students found widespread frustration with the quality and accessibility of the existing facilities, trustees were told, and 81 percent of those surveyed said new recreation facilities should be a “medium to very high” priority.

AP-ES-09-23-03 0935EDT

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