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Monday, January 08, 2007

Southern U. BR Planning Major Construction

New Intramural Center, Expanded Stadium, new Apartments on Tap
Southern University freshman Damian Walker looks forward to the day he can walk out of his on-campus apartment on his way to a football game at the expanded A.W. Mumford Stadium. Maybe he will even stop to shoot some hoops at the Intramural Sports Complex.

A bevy of long-planned Southern facilities projects, with the centerpiece being the stadium expansion, are finally set to begin this month starting with construction of four apartment buildings in the northwestern corner of the campus.

“It’s about time,” said Walker of Mobile, Ala., who is eager to move out of Jones Hall freshman male dormitory. “They’re finally putting all that money to use.”

The plan is to impress campus visitors with modern facilities, said Ernie Hughes, executive director for the Southern University System Foundation, which is leading the financing.

“The whole key is to change the physical infrastructure of how people view this campus,” Hughes said.

Improving the quality of life for students and fans plays a big part in the recruitment of top students and athletes, he said.

“I’m excited; I’m motivated,” Hughes added.

“This is a whole facelift of the university,” agreed Johnny Anderson, chairman of the Southern University System Board of Supervisors.

Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter, who took office in March, calls this the university’s biggest project in many years.

“It’s a long time coming,” Slaughter said, noting that $60 million in funding was put “in the bank” in December.

Indeed, raising funds and then Hurricane Katrina caused significant delays and a revamping of the project that eliminated some improvements for Southern’s New Orleans and Shreveport campuses.

A change in the system’s presidency did not help either, nor did a controversial 2005 shakeup of the Southern University System Foundation that led to Hughes taking over.

Student tuition and fees were increased in recent years to pay for these projects, and football ticket price went up. All of this made those paying extra money more eager to see construction get under way.

Now, housing construction begins this month, followed by the tearing down of the remaining dilapidated Magnolia Triangle dormitories next month to make way for the Intramural Sports Complex, Hughes said.

Then, the north end zone enclosure of A.W. Mumford begins in March, Hughes said.

“The beauty of it” is so much is about to happen almost at once, Hughes said, because everything is included in a single bond project, which was easier to approve than several smaller ones, he said.

Ambling University Development Group of Valdosta, Ga., has already started preparation work for the apartment-style dormitories, Hughes said, and the four dormitories will be occupied in the spring of 2008. The four buildings will contain 600 beds in one-, two- or four-bedroom apartments. The dormitories will have 300 new parking spaces.

“It’s very significant,” Anderson said of the first apartment-style residences for Southern. “It has a direct correlation with recruitment. We have to have quality dormitories.”

The $23.6 million apartments will be built just north of another nearly completed dormitory, which is the final facility built from the now-defunct consent decree desegregation settlement.

The nearly completed dormitory is now named Ulysses S. Jones Hall after a former Southern administrator, as approved Saturday by the Board of Supervisors. It is in the same architectural style as S.V. Totty Hall and Camille Shade Hall.

But the project that has most people excited is the $14.5 million stadium expansion and new football complex.

“We’re going to redo the whole stadium in a sense,” Hughes said.

Not only will the east and west sides be renovated but the north end zone is to be enclosed by the construction of 3,500 seats, including 500 suite seats. The suites are roughly modeled after the new ones in LSU’s Tiger Stadium, Hughes said.

The north end zone — set for completion before the 2008 season — also will have ticket booths, concessions areas and a Hall of Champions display. The football complex in the north end zone will have coaches offices, weight rooms, lockers, film-study rooms and additional locker rooms for men’s and women’s track teams.

“Southern will probably have one of the best structures in the conference … in the division, really,” Hughes said. “For a black school, that’s almost unheard of.”

Also, at Lee-Hines Field, home of the Southern baseball team, a new field house will be built beyond left field to house locker rooms for players and umpires, coaches offices and a meeting room.

Finally, the Intramural Sports Complex will fulfill students’ recreational needs, Hughes said, by offering basketball courts, volleyball, racquetball, indoor swimming, a food court and plenty of locker rooms and showers.

“The intramural center we’ve been talking about for 10 years finally coming to reality is amazing,” Anderson said.

drawing of proposed SU Intramural Center.


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