September 21, 2019

UC expansion committee making progress

The committee plans on making a recommendation regarding the UC’s expansion by the end of this spring

By John Pohl

Paul Carney, vice president of enrollment management at Webster University, has appointed a committee to work on plans to renovate the University Center (UC). The UC currently lacks the space and facilities to meet the university’s needs.
“We have considerable needs that are well documented,” said Athletics Director Tom Hart. “There is not enough office space for coaches and the locker rooms fall well below the national standards when compared to other universities.”
Hart said the training facility is small, lacks space and doesn’t have windows.
“It is important with everyone becoming healthier,” Pohl said. “Most universities make their University Center the centerpiece of their university. Our gym is booked from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. most days. There is very little room for informal recreation time for students.”
Although Hart understands the needs of the athletic teams and students, to have a new center, he believes finances and the university’s overall concerns must be considered first.
“We are renting space at a high school just to meet classroom needs,” Hart said. “I am excited everyone is aware of the needs we have for the new center. Although there is no timetable for a new center, at least it’s on the table.”
Carney wants students to get more involved in athletics and sees the new center as a way of doing just that.
“We need to think about intramurals and incorporate all the space,” Carney said. “We are putting together a master plan. The plan includes an academic building, the upgrade of the University Center and the expansion of residence halls. We are in much better shape with the science facility and academic portion in the short term.”
The committee is led by Ted Hoef, Dean of Students.
“They’ll make a recommendation to me and the administrative council and we’ll take it from it there,” Carney said.
Carney has put no limitations on what the committee can recommend. He said the committee wants to know what a first-class center needs, and they will consider affordability as well.
Carney expects funding for the new center to come from fundraising projects and donations. He does not anticipate tuition costs to be increased because of this initiative.
“During the summer and fall we met with students, faculty, local neighborhoods and visited other schools,” Hoef said. “We also want to get students’ reaction, so we are going to do that via a survey in the spring.”
The committee has already visited a number of other university centers, including ones at Washington University, Saint Louis University, Fontbonne University, Bradley University, Millikin University and Illinois College. The committee is scheduled to go to the University of Missouri-St. Louis this week.
“We are considering needs such as dining, larger offices, services and athletic facilities,” Hoef said. “Our job is not to consider costs, but only the needs of the new center, and make a recommendation. The committee’s work should be concluded by the end of this spring.”
Once the recommendation is submitted, Carney and the administrative council will analyze it and decide on the next step.
“The program will go through a cost analysis,” Carney said. “We’ll identify priorities and then see what we can afford.”
It is unknown when construction will begin and how long it will take to complete the upgrade.
“Nothing can be done until renovations to Sverdrup are completed,” Hoef said.

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