Construction projects abundant on the Hill

Hollan Holm

Knocked-out windows, extensive patches of torn-up ground and dumpsters overflowing with rubble greeted students as they returned to campus last week.

About $136 million in construction projects blanket the Hill, each in varying stages, President Gary Ransdell said last Friday at the groundbreaking for the Complex for Engineering and Biological Sciences.

John Osborne, vice president of campus services and facilities, gave a presentation at last week’s Board of Regents meeting outlining some of the construction projects underway.

SUBHED Directional Halls

Students who camped out for a spot in the newly renovated directional halls are now resting comfortably. Most of the renovations were completed at the end of the summer and other small projects are being finished daily.

The four directional halls were merged into Northeast and Southwest Halls. Each dorm room has a private bathroom, movable furniture and thermostat-controlled heating and air-conditioning.

The $14.5 million project began in June of 2001.

Brian Kuster, Housing and Residence Life director, said he is speaking with the Student Life Foundation about possible donors who may purchase the naming rights for the buildings.

Other Dorm Renovations

Now that the overhaul on the directional halls is complete, renovations have begun on a new set of dorms: Bates-Runner, Barnes-Campbell and Bemis Lawrence.

A $3.3 million renovation on Bates-Runner Hall started last month. The revamped hall will include private suites, air conditioning and sprinkler systems.

The entire project should be finished by July.

At the bottom of the Hill, Bemis is also undergoing renovations. The project, which costs $2.6 million, began in May and should be finished by December.

Changes include improvements to the elevators, installation of new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Osborne said about 35 percent of the renovations are complete.

Residents of Barnes-Campbell will move into Bemis during Christmas Break in preparation for work on Barnes that will begin this January. It will receive the same improvements as Bemis. It is scheduled to be complete by July.

Gene Tice, vice president of student affairs and campus services, said he was excited about the work on the dorms.

“Campus is going through a transformation,” Tice said. “In two or three years it will be completely different due to renovation and construction.”

Media and Technology Hall

Before March, workers at Media and Technology Hall must complete about 40 percent of the project, including work on the walls, roof and exterior brick.

The building, which is more than 110,000 square feet , began construction in April 2001. The $18.5 million building will include an auditorium, photo labs, photo studios and computer labs in addition to classroom and office space.

The building is located on Normal Street between Tate Page Hall and the Academic Complex.

Ransdell said the university doesn’t have any strong possibilities for donors for the building’s name.

Complex for Engineering and Biological Sciences

Wielding a robot-powered shovel, Gov. Paul Patton broke ground Friday on the more than 76,000 square feet Complex for Engineering and Biological Sciences. The $20 million project will include laboratories and student project rooms in addition to classrooms and office space.

The building, located on Chestnut Street, is scheduled to open in March 2004. It will be located behind the Thompson Complex on Chestnut Street.

According to Osborne, fences will be in place and crews will begin work in the next few weeks.

Diddle Arena Renovation and Addition

Despite gaping holes in the exterior of the building, phase one of the $25.8 million Diddle Arena renovation is scheduled to be ready for this year’s basketball season. The facility, located on Big Red Way between the parking structure and Smith Stadium, has been under renovation since early May.

“We’re focusing on getting the bowl ready,” Osborne said. The “bowl” includes features such as the luxury suites and video boards, and much of the interior work of Diddle.

Work on classrooms and outside projects like the auxiliary gyms will continue during the basketball season, Osborne said. He anticipates phase one will be completed by March in time for Western to host the Sun Belt Conference Basketball Tournament.

“The keyword is ‘hopefully,’ ” Osborne said.

The second phase of the renovation will include the replacement of the seating and flooring in Diddle and will begin in May. That work is expected to be finished by October 2003.

No one has purchased naming rights for the facility.

Smith Stadium and Feix Field

Renovations to Smith Stadium and Feix Field are expected to be finished this month. The renovations, totaling $1.5 million, are included in the financing for Diddle Arena.

Synthetic turf has replaced natural grass on the football field. The turf should be ready by the first home game on Sept. 7.

Work on the new surface has been slowed by recent rains, Osborne said, but it is still on pace to be finished before the opening home game.

“It’s almost like a carpet,” Osborne said. “It has to be dry before you get it right.”

Renovations are also being made on the practice fields across from Smith Stadium, over the railroad tracks.

Herald reporter Hollan Holm can be reached at [email protected]