Government Officials and Their Toys

Schools spend big on recreation centers:

Bob Lyons remembers – not fondly – the old gym at the University of Missouri at Columbia: It was cramped, had the odor of smelly socks and could get so hot in summer that “you just wanted to die,” said Lyons, a recent graduate.

Contrast that with the new $50 million, jungle-themed recreation center that is nearly twice the size and virtually finished.

“It’s just awe-inspiring,” said Lyons, who helps oversee the center’s 42-foot climbing tower.

Eleven large plasma screens line the wall of the “jungle gym.” The gym features about 100 pieces of cardio equipment, some of which have individual DVD players.

In the “tiger grotto,” there is a swirling vortex, lazy river with waterfall, whirlpool and dry sauna. Towering above it all is a jumbo, Vegas-style display board that blasts music videos on “ZouTv,” an internal station that plays music selections based on weekly Internet polls.

I would dare Mizzou to find a single freaking student that chose the University of Missouri of Columbia over another college because of its swank recreational facilities, but someone at Mizzou could probably trot out some stooge as though a single student or small cadre would justify spending fifty million dollars on such an endeavor.

It’s one thing if an alumnus donates a pile of cash for the privilige of diverting students from their studies, but students, and that’s all students, not just the “health-conscious” students who want “a gathering place to see and be seen,” will have to cough up $150 a year to subsidize a meat market for college students who don’t suffer from a dearth of gathering places to find the next one night stand or starter marriage.

No, friends, this is what happens when our localish government agencies become high school cliques, and when expenditures are driven by the all-the-cool-people-have-them mentality. Suddenly, we’re shelling out money for bike trails, rec plexes, and whatnot because all the other schools/counties/municipalities/states have them.

Not because they’re necessary government services, but because they’re cool.

I wish our leaders would grow up.