Western keeps Master Plan moving

Alyse Thompson

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Despite battling various funding issues, Western Illinois University has continued to pursue its Master Plan for the campus.

Scott Coker, assistant director of the Heating Plant, said the state’s budget crisis has had an impact on intended renovations – and ultimately – the students.

“Unfortunately, the economic condition the state is in, we can no longer rely on them to provide funding, so the students have to end up paying,” Coker said. “We’ve got to fix these things in order to keep our University viable, and those are the fund which we have.”

A combination of student fees and state funding will furnish the many projects started and planned by the University. Here are some recent developments on those projects:

Performing Arts Center

Though there was a ceremonial groundbreaking last April, students should not expect to see any construction on the Performing Arts Center for at least another year, according to Coker.

The University is still in the design phase for the three-theater facility, but once the design is completed, there may or may not be a delay on construction funding from the state.

“All we’ve received is the design funds, we technically don’t have the construction funds yet, so when we get the design complete, we may have to wait again for construction funds,” Coker said. “Hopefully, by then it will be ready.”

As soon as the design is finalized, the University will look for bids for the $68 million facility.

The building, which will be located near Corbin and Olson Halls, will house a 1,400-seat proscenium theater, a 250-seat thrust stage and a 150-seat studio theater in addition to dressing rooms, rehearsal studios and workshops. The building will take approximately three years to complete.

“It takes a long time for a very large building like that,” Coker said. “It’s going to be really nice when we get it all done.”

Wetzel Hall

The University is beginning to finalize plans to demolish Wetzel Hall within the next two years, according to Budget Director Matt Bierman.

Crews have begun removing asbestos, fixtures and furnishings, but the University is still working on a plan to safely implode the building.

“It is our intent to tear it down,” Bierman said. “The big demolition (will occur) either summer of 2012 or 2013. It has not been completely slated yet.”

Bierman said the University does not need the extra housing capacity, and to reserve construction dollars, it will tear down the former residence hall.

“We are trying to concentrate our construction dollars and our renovation dollars to certain buildings, and that’s one we decided not going to put any money into,” Bierman said.

A company specializing in demolition will complete the project – which costs an estimated $2 million in student room and board fees – but the University has not yet chosen that company.

And in order to maintain a level of sustainability set by Western, Coker said they will salvage as much as possible from the building.

“The plan is when they do that, we will be able to recycle almost 90 percent of the material of the building; concrete, metal. Everything has value now, so we are pushing to have a very sustainable, material-saving design.”

Bierman said the space will either remain “green space” or become additional parking, but there are no specific plans at this time.

Lincoln Hall/Washington Hall

As part of a two-step renovation sub-plan, Lincoln and Washington Halls both underwent a great deal of construction this summer.

“It’s been a pretty busy summer for us,” Bierman said. “Probably our most notable project that students will get to feel and see and touch this fall is our Washington bathroom renovation. Over the course of 12 or 13 weeks, we have completely gutted the bathrooms in Washington Hall.”

According to Bierman, the bathrooms in Washington were doubled in size, and semi-private showers and better lighting were added. The University also installed energy-saving showers, toilets, faucets and occupancy sensors in order to make the building more sustainable.

In Lincoln Hall, more rooms were renovated, but a bathroom overhaul will not occur until next summer.

Bierman said this project will cost $4.2 million, and approximately half was spent on the renovations this summer. All the funding for residence hall renovations comes from student fees.

Corbin and Olson Halls

The estimated $25 million renovation on Corbin and Olson Halls also progressed this summer.

Bierman said the project, which includes completely new rooms and bathrooms for both halls and a new joint dining hall, will be completed next summer. Students should start seeing the finishing touches in about six months.

“Right now, there is nothing for students to really see other than a big hole where the dining center used to be, but that project is progressing nicely and on schedule,” Bierman said.

Utility Plan

Students may find it difficult to drive past Western Hall on the freshly paved University Drive.

According to Coker, the blockage is part of Phase 1 of the Utility Plan. The project, which has been underway for approximately six to eight months, consists of extending and replacing worn steam lines. The new lines will provide better heating and cooling to the north side of campus.

“It’s a big hassle for everybody, but it is something we need to do to replace underground steam lines that were worn out and fading,” Coker said.

Using the old, underground pedestrian passage, crews are extending the steam lines to Brophy Hall. Once Phase 1 is completed, they will extend the lines to Thompson Hall and North Quad.

Neither phase will upset the new pavement recently laid by the city of Macomb, however.

“We wanted to get it done before they did the paving, but the timing didn’t work out,” Coker said.

The Utility Plan will be funded by student fees and will cost approximately $11 million upon completion.

Hanson Field

In order to prepare for the first football game on Sept. 9, the University worked to finish laying the new artificial turf on Hanson field last week.

The turf will replace the existing grass, and according to Coker, it will put Western more in line with the other schools in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

“From my understanding, we are the last team in our league to have grass, so we’ll match everybody else in our league.”

The scoreboard meant to complement the turf has been put on hold, however. The turf cost more than expected, and the University is now waiting for additional funds. The funding for the project comes from student fees.

“We have the design ready, we just need the construction dollars,” Coker said. “The turf was the main priority to get done first.”

The project, which is part of Phase 2 of Hanson Field renovations, is set to be completed Sept. 1.

University Union

Though it is not technically outlined in the Master Plan, the University will soon begin a programming study to determine various renovation projects for the Union.

“The Union needs some attention; it needs to be renovated,” Bierman said.

One aspect of the study will include examining the restaurant selections on the first floor of the Union. Both Bierman and Coker said it is important to consider student tastes, as well as variety, while choosing restaurants for the Union.

“Student preferences sort of drive that (restaurant choices),” Bierman said. “It changes all the time. The Union’s changed a lot in the last 10 years. There’s been several different venues in each one of those locations.”

This fall, students will notice Einstein Bros. in place of Pause Deli. Bierman said it cost approximately $300,000 to update the space and bring in the company.

“It will be a nice addition,” Bierman said.

Einstein Bros. was added after students indicated in a similar survey last spring they would be interested in having a franchise in the Union.

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