Thompson Complex North Wing closed for good next semester

In the North Wing of Thompson Kelly Complex many of the labs are no longer in use, and the classes that once occupied them have been moved to Snell. Currently, the North Wing is largely used as a space for offices for teachers and researchers rather than classrooms. 

Jackson French

Next semester, while other buildings on campus will be filled with classes, the North Wing of the Thompson Complex will be empty.

Ben Johnson, assistant director of Planning, Design and Construction, said the wing will be closed permanently due to heating and cooling system failures.

He said many of the pipes that provide heating and cooling to the building have deteriorated over the years, which has led to several system failures.

Johnson said there are areas of the building that do not have heat, adding that classes have been moved out of those areas.

“Our intention is to keep the building open through fall semester, provided we don’t have any more failures,” he said.

John Osborne, vice president for Campus Services and Facilities, said he doesn’t know if the heating in North Wing will last until the end of the building’s final semester.

“If it doesn’t, then we will make adjustments, but in the meantime, we are making arrangements to relocate everything in the building,” he said.

Johnson said the building has been slated for demolition for eight years.

He said the decision to mark the building for demolition was made because “we knew the mechanical systems were in pretty poor shape and it wasn’t cost-effective to rehabilitate them.”

“That piping throughout the building has deteriorated to the point that repairing it is just simply not feasible,” Johnson said.

He said there was a “significant failure” in the systems over the summer and another one when the system was switched from cooling to heating, adding that this second failure “really reinforced their concerns.”

Osborne said the North Wing will be demolished as part of a project to renovate the Thompson Complex if WKU can secure funding for the project from the Commonwealth.

He said the project would also involve tearing down the planetarium and constructing a new building.

Osborne said the new building will consist of a new planetarium and “additional instructional space.”

He said classes in North Wing have been relocated to other buildings over time, adding that the construction of Snell Hall and the Engineering and Biological Sciences Building, as well as renovations made to College High Hall, have lessened the Ogden College’s dependence on North Wing.

“All of that was…renovated and constructed in the last few years, which has resulted in us being able to reduce the importance and use of the North Wing,” Osborne said.

“We felt they needed to do that because at any given time, they could lose heat for the building and we didn’t want to be in the position where we were in the middle of January and the temperatures were hovering in the teens or single digits and we lose heat for the building and we’re in a crisis mode.”

During a University Senate meeting last Thursday, President Gary Ransdell said renovation has been a priority for a long time.

He said the building can’t be renovated without state funds, but the project has been deferred.

“The state has not funded capital projects since 2006,” Ransdell said, “and until the state gets back in the capital project business, which it’s got to do at some point, we’re unable to address that problem.”

Johnson said North Wing was state of the art when it was built in 1960 but has since been outdated.

“We tried to keep it operational and open as long as we could,” he said.