Campus construction a mix of triumphs and failures

Driving, running or walking around the Metzger Drive loop, students, faculty and prospective students alike are impressed by the recent construction projects here at the College. Along with the New Library that opened in August, there are two sports complexes in late stages of construction.

However, just down the walkway from the recently completed Metzger Drive Parking Garage and across from Lot 4, stands what has become a construction eyesore on campus: the infamous apartments.

According to Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations, construction cannot be continued until the legal issues surrounding the complex are addressed. The College has been negotiating take-over agreements since before September of last year, Golden said.

“At certain points it has appeared that an agreement was close to being reached,” Golden said. “At others, it seemed less likely. Once an agreement that is right for the College has been struck, we can move forward. As for now, we continue to negotiate.”

In response to rumors that the complex will be knocked down because of significant damage, Golden said that those decisions would be premature. Once the negotiations for the take-over are complete, the new contractor would evaluate and determine the “most effective course of action.”

In addition to the multiple demands facing the office of Campus Planning and Construction, it has had to deal with the loss of a director of Campus Construction since last October. According to Golden, Brian Murray left his position as director on Oct. 12, 2005, to work for a private construction firm. Murray, who started as a consultant for the College in 1997, left on good terms, Golden said.

Curt Heuring, vice president for Facilities Management, Construction and Campus Safety, is primarily in charge of overseeing the general on-campus construction to ensure that projects run smoothly. He was unavailable for comment. According to Golden, Jerry Maffia of Turner Construction was hired on Oct. 19, 2005 by the College as a consultant to see to the “day-to-day” operations. Maffia will be leaving the construction company on Feb. 3 and thus will no longer be working for the College at that date, Golden said.

“We will be finalizing temporary plans soon and hope to have a permanent director of Campus Construction in the near future,” Golden said.

Though the legal issue surrounding the apartments has halted that project and left the three abandoned buildings standing eerily uncompleted along the loop, it has not impacted the construction of other facilities. The New Library, which opened its doors to an appreciative student body on Aug. 29, 2005, has enjoyed a significant increase in student usage.

“(The New Library) is a tremendous resource that is becoming a hub of intellectual life on campus and is stimulating scholarship,” Golden said. The construction project was an incredible success, he said, and the facility has had an important impact on student life.

Tina Harris, senior English education major and a library student employee for four years, expressed enthusiasm about the new building. “Working at the New Library is wonderful,” she said. “The same attention was paid to making the employees as comfortable as the library users. Though there was a lot of adjustment to be made, the whole staff has a sense of pride and excitement over this beautiful facility.”

According to Golden, although the majority of the building is complete, the construction of the caf? was affected by the State Department of Community Affairs’ approval delays. Construction is anticipated to begin soon, and the caf? is expected to be completed later this spring, along with the final landscaping around the facility.

“(My roommate and I) observed the construction because we lived on campus (last year) and walked passed it every day,” Julia Hughes, junior history major, said. “Now I know (the College) can get the job done and accomplish something here in regards to construction.”

Taras Pavlovsky, dean of the library, stated that he was very pleased with the construction of the New Library, although he expressed disappointment over the delay of the caf?.

“As with any construction job, there are ‘punch list’ items that are still being resolved, but overall I am very pleased with the building,” Pavlovsky said.

While students are settling behind the luxurious flat-monitored workstations available at the New Library, athletes, coaches and fans anticipate the completion of two new sports complexes, the softball field and a multipurpose field. According to Golden, the two new facilities will be used by the varsity women’s softball team, the varsity men’s and women’s soccer teams and the varsity field hockey team.

The softball field is anticipated to be completed by mid-March for use by the team during their upcoming season, while the soccer field is scheduled to be finished slightly later in April, Golden said. Since the soccer field will contain synthetic turf, weather conditions need to be consistent for the insulation process to be completed.

The complexes will contain press boxes, stadium seating, a concession stand and a ticket booth.

“We are excited about the new facilities for our student athletes as well as for the campus community,” Kevin McHugh, director of Athletics, said.

“Having a new soccer field will be personally the best addition because we were battling against football and field hockey for the use of the field for practices and games,” David Katan, junior marketing major and varsity soccer athlete, said. “Now we can have practice at a more reasonable time instead of (so) early to avoid conflicting schedules.”

“I am particularly gratified that our softball team will finally have their home field back after enduring two years without a field on campus,” McHugh said. “(The new complexes) are certainly going to enhance (our teams’) training, will provide for a great game atmosphere for participants and spectators and will be a boost from a recruiting standpoint.”

As varsity athletes anticipate the professionalism and respect the new complexes will provide them in their upcoming seasons, and the buzz of the New Library continues to excite students, the all-too-often question of housing remains a heated topic. While the office of Residential and Community Development plans its housing information sessions for next week, the one question students do not have to bother asking about is those apartments – they will not be an option.