Bren Center Faces Financial Crisis

Drew McCarroll | Staff Photographer

Drew McCarroll | Staff Photographer
The Bren Center offers a large place for student groups to host events.

The Bren Events Center has hosted countless events for UC Irvine, ranging from volleyball games, dance crew performances and Greek community events to live performances by big-name entertainers like Jon Stewart and Flogging Molly. However, it may now be running out of student reserves needed to keep the venue open.
The center is funded in part by student fees, and as such is obligated to remain open for students’ use as much as possible. Still, it needs to generate revenue from outside sources to remain in service. Student access to the Bren Center is ensured by a student fee plan that helps maintain the level of its student reserves, which allows the Bren Center to offer the building as a place for student groups to host events.
“As of now, the referendum that provides the building with reserve income has a sunset clause that is expected to retire near the end of eight years,” said Kyle Holmes, the administrative affairs vice president of the Associated Students of UCI. “Once this occurs, the building will have to generate additional income, and student usage of the building will be significantly questioned as students will no longer be paying to use the building through the fee.”
ASUCI officers collaborate with administrators of various departments dealing with policy and financial operations of the center to make a strategic plan for generating income and scheduling. One solution that student leaders have come up with involves extending the current student fee plan so that students can continue to have guaranteed access to the building. If the fee is extended, then students will have no problem using the center in the future.
The center’s staff balances their responsibilities with the needs of UCI students and maintaining an events facility as large and spacious as the Bren.
As scheduling space allotted to student groups can always be sold to performers, it is the job of the Bren board and administration to decide to which group will be given a time slot. Bernadette M. Strobel-Lopez, the intercollegiate athletics director at the Bren, addressed this concern.
“Sometimes we have some [scheduling] challenges. We have a number of student groups that use the venue for rehearsals which makes it difficult to host major events during that time,” Strobel-Lopez said.
Strobel-Lopez went on to explain that, because of an increasing athletics schedule, the competition for timeslots will only increase.
“This is becoming more challenging now that we are hosting the men’s volleyball games. However, we have been able to work with everyone so that no one has to be turned away. … [The UCI student organizations] have been great to work with to achieve win-win situations, they understand [our] challenges,” Strobel-Lopez said.
Regardless of the competition for timeslots, Holmes believes that the center has an obligation to maintain its reserves.
“As a student leader, it is my [personal] opinion that during the period in which the building still possesses reserves that it provides additional scheduling time for non-students [and] higher income generating groups so that the reserves will last for a longer duration of time … or that the fee be extended through additional referenda passed by students. … However, extending the fee during a budget drought will be difficult,” Holmes said.
Students around campus seem to have mixed opinions on the Bren Events Center.
“Truthfully, … I haven’t really used the Bren for anything,” said Daniel Joseph, a second-year physics major. “I don’t see a problem with me paying less and not being able to use it [if the fee plan expires].”
Rachel Goossens, a second-year civil engineering major, had a different opinion.
“Well, I think we should keep paying for it because … it’s important to have a school events center that is [so close] to campus,” Goosens said.
While the Bren is in no immediate danger of being closed to students, the effect that pending tuition hikes will have on the Bren Center’s financial reserves remains to be seen.