Campus updates meant to enhance tradition

Houston freshman Justin Lee tosses a football in the renovated Fountain Mall Thursday, Sept. 13. Fountain Mall is one of many locations to receive upgrades this year.
Meagan Downing | Lariat Photographer

By Jordan Hearne

Many Baylor alumni will have an opportunity to see new structural campus changes that have taken place over the past year for the first time this weekend.

While many are pleased with the campus updates, others aren’t as comfortable.

Some alumni, such as 2009 graduate Corey Payne, have reservations regarding the changes — mainly the destruction of Fort Faculty housing.

“I didn’t even realize these changes were happening. That’s sad to see go, the houses close to campus,” Payne said. “I would have voted on it if I was given a chance.”

Brian Nicholson, associate vice president for facility planning and construction, said noticeable changes, such as the removal of some housing in the Fort Faculty area across from the McLane Student Life Center, are intended to improve campus by utilizing the new space and the central location of these areas.

“The reason these houses were torn down isn’t just aesthetic,” Nicholson said. “It was done for future plans.”

Third Street will eventually run through Fort Faculty and underground utility lines will then run along the extended street, Nicholson said.

Nicholson said that while these structural modifications seem to slightly change the look of Baylor’s historical campus, he hopes they will actually enhance tradition.

“I think there are some areas like Fifth Street, there are certain traditions held there, like the parade and Christmas on Fifth, that will never go away,” Nicholson said. “Any changes made to these areas will just incorporate those traditions.”

Houston senior Daniel Haddad, president of Baylor Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks it is still too early to tell how changes, such as the future renovation of Fort Faculty, will affect homecoming preparations.

Matt Burchett, director of Student Activities, said he has not heard feedback from alumni, most likely because homecoming will be the first opportunity for returning graduates to see the upgraded campus. Recent changes to campus may mean Baylor Homecoming traditions will need to be altered.

Burchett said this year the homecoming bonfire will be different, as the roads that ran through Fountain Mall used to provide a natural barrier between the fire and outlying grass have been removed. To make up for the missing blockade, a steel wall will be built around the perimeter of the bonfire.

“In years past, we had a rope barrier 20 feet out from the fire as a basic perimeter,” Burchett said. “We are just replacing that with a steel wall. It shouldn’t make a dramatic difference.”

Burchett sees the beautification projects around campus, especially the re-landscaped Fountain Mall, as something that will impress alumni.

“The best thing for us is that what once was road is now grass, and it will be a great atmosphere for the bonfire [today],” Burchett said.

So far, Nicholson said the university has received nothing but positive reactions to the changes, both from alumni and current students.

Kay Deaton Gentsch, a 1978 graduate, has seen the campus’ makeover and appreciates the new additions.

“My outlook might be a bit different since I have a daughter at Baylor, and I see how much she enjoys the campus improvements,” Gentsch said.

She said the original character of Baylor and its original appearance still remain true to her experience as a student, saying, “Baylor has aged more gracefully than I have.”

Nicholson said he hopes visiting alumni will agree that the updated campus enhances the overall area and gives Baylor a more intimate setting.

“These things aren’t meant to change what people remember,” Nicholson said. “They are meant to improve the campus and traditions overall.”