I will agree that some of the facilities are lavish and a waste of money. However, what you might see as a waste of money might be different than what I see as a waste.
Looking at the 30 best college pools article, I see UCF on there. They have over 50,000 undergraduates ... If the facilities were for a school of 4,000, it might be lavish. For a school of UCF's size, it is appropriate.
You and I definitely have different definitions of lavish and a waste of money. That $60 million UCF facility was described thusly (apparently in marketing material written by the university):
The Swedish Sauna and Sky Deck tanning area, complete with a Tiki Hut, provides a spa-like setting for you to unwind from exams and reinvigorate the senses.
The "South Beach-style environment," according to the project's website, also will include a "resort-style" pool, a sand volleyball court and --- why not? --- a water volleyball court. There's also a high-speed video game room, a fitness center and a life-size chess board.
The journalist who wrote the article added: "I'm sorry, is UCF offering classes or Caribbean cruises?"
Look: college is hard work if done properly. I'm a scientist with a degree in history from a rigorous college. I remember how hard it was personally and for everyone around me (both the humanities and science students). Any student who wants to do well in a traditional college major (but especially in STEM) ---even at a community college --- has to be serious about studying and work very hard. If I had been spending my 19-year-old time at a tiki spa instead of swotting at chemistry, I would have ended up with Cs or worse and never would have got into a decent graduate student position.
The thing is, those tiki spas and lazy rivers appeal to kids at an age when they're extremely vulnerable to distraction. I was a pretty serious student, but if we'd had $60 million worth of luxury amenities at my college, I don't know if I would have been able to walk away from them enough to keep my grades up.
OK... while I'm the first to admit that SOME students will get distracted by these amenities and not study hard. We also have a rising problem in anxiety in college students that school administrators are trying to find ways to fix before the suicide rate goes even higher. And while I can't comment on particular amenities at most of these schools. Most of these lazy rivers are tied to the brand new fitness centers. Exercise is one of the ways psychologist tell us helps to relieve stress. I'm hoping that the idea behind these is as attracted to get students INTO the center and once there to check out the splashy amenities they come back for the yoga class or weight room.
I have used the facility at my local university, it has a indoor track, lap swimming pool, climbing wall, exercise rooms, weight rooms. If everyone who could use the facility did it would be WAY too small. (30,00 students Plus faculty, staff, alumni and families can pay to used the facility.) They run a huge intramural (for fun) sports program that is a great way for the students to run off steam, have fun and socialize in a way that doesn't involve drugs or alcohol. IMO this is way more valuable the the formal extramural sports programs. Which have a level of stress, commitment, travel, and sometimes a scholarship on the line. While the swimming pool is mostly used for lap swimming and does not have a lazy river or water slides, I'm sure it is sometimes used for recreational fun swims or club meetings/parties. The rock climbing wall is only open certain hours and honestly really only a beginner wall. I'll admit it looks fancy but if the students use the facilities they are getting a much better bang for their buck that if they had to join an outside gym.
In comparison when I was in university in the 1980's I learned how to sail on the open ocean in a variety of boats. Honestly the maintenance on those lazy rivers is probably less than maintenance on the boats many school own. I'd say overall it was good for me to take a break from my studies and take a sail. That didn't mean I didn't study hard. And yes I was privileged I could afford to do these programs. Students don't have to and shouldn't have to become monks doing nothing but studying in order to succeed.
And as NotSoGifted stated these facilitates are often for student bodies of 30-50,000 students & often staff, faculty and sometimes alumni. Yes the way they are funded is frustrating requiring current students no say in fee's imposed on them by previous students. And yes it is adding to the cost of college but this is only one is a long line of reasons that price of college is rising. I watched a movie that claimed that the biggest contributor to this is the building of new building on campus and the rise in administrators for the same number of faculty/students as being more at fault.