By James Ratcliff/@JamesR5767
As Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s new recreational sports director, Arturo “Art” Olague oversees current and future recreational activities.
Among his priorities this semester are the remodeling of the former Madla Building cafeteria into a student fitness center and the development of rec progams. The center will open March 23, but may occur later due to equipment delays.
In January, Olague moved into a tiny office in the Central Academic Building on the permanent campus of A&M-San Antonio. The office is still so new to him he hasn’t had time to hang his diplomas from Texas Tech University and the University of Mississippi which sit on the floor, next to his desk.
Clad in a simple A&M-San Antonio polo shirt, Olague, 34, said he hopes to use his prior work experience to grow the university’s recreational opportunities.
“I’d like to incorporate and exceed what was at UT-Brownsville,” Olague said. “I’d like to see an aquatics program, a health and wellness program, and offer some outdoor programs as well. Those are the norms on college campuses.”
But the numbers indicate he’ll have to start slow and spend carefully. Olague faces a challenge with the allotted budget dedicated for intramural sports collected from student fees.
A financial breakdown provided by university comptroller Jennifer Skiver shows financial services collected $812,045.60 in student fees since August 2014 (see more on rec fees).
Of the collected fees, the university allocated $244,809.47 to construction while over $65,000 went toward equipment. The budget also includes $2,698.13 for student worker wages. Other encumbered funds will go toward salary and benefits, computer equipment, freight and delivery services, and supplies.
With these constraints in place, the department faces some growing pains. However, according to Jo Anna Franke, assistant vice president of student engagement and success,Olague is a perfect fit to create programming that can grow over time.
“We conducted a national search and, in the end, we felt like he was the person most qualified to start up a program,” Franke said. “He understands the needs that come with developing a recreational sports program from the ground up.”
From 2010 to 2014, Olague served as the director of campus recreation at the University of Texas at Brownsville where his co-workers said he balanced multiple roles.
“His work ethic was amazing,” said Jennifer Holaman, Olague’s former colleague at UT-Brownsville. “He dribbled a lot. He was in charge of our mascot, cheerleading program and limited budget. He made sure everything worked, from the events we worked on and he collaborated with other departments. He did a lot in a short amount of time.”
Olague obtained his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science from Texas Tech University in 2005 and obtained his master’s degree in parks, recreation and leisure facilities management from the University of Mississippi in 2008.
“They’ve been integral,” Olague said of his degrees. “It’s where I got my motivation to give back to students. I don’t know if I could put one over the other, since I learned a lot in Lubbock but I got a lot more hands-on experience at ‘Ole Miss.’”
His simple, focused approach to his job goes back to when he grew up in the West Texas town of Big Spring, about 40 miles west of Midland and Odessa.
As for the future, Olague sees potential in the south side of San Antonio, and the type of growth seen on the north side of the city.
“The only difference with what’s going on here and what happened at UTSA is that this is happening in the era of Twitter and instant gratification,” Olague said. “UTSA developed before social media, in the 80s and 90s.”
Olague said that social media, when used to build anticipation for new things at A&M-San Antonio, sometimes leads to impatience. Olague remains optimistic that A&M-San Antonio will continue to grow and expand as time goes on.
When he’s not at work, Olague likes to spend time with his wife and four daughters.
“Our daughters are everything,” said Olague. “From dance practice to school activities, my wife and I live for our children.”