Regents approve $120 million in capital investments
By Daniel C. Houston
The Baylor Board of Regents moved one step closer to allowing the construction of a new on-campus football stadium at its homecoming meeting Friday, while also approving an ambitious set of capital investments, including the construction of a new $70 million student housing and dining complex.
The university released a conceptual rendering of what a new stadium might look like Friday, after the regents approved a fan survey and a study to gauge the project’s feasibility. The feasibility study will be completed next month and the fan survey will go out in the upcoming weeks, according to athletic director Ian McCaw.
“An on-campus riverfront stadium would transform our football program, our athletic program and the entire university,” McCaw said. “We’d be able to proved a real unique and desirable fan experience for students, faculty, staff and alumni.”
If approved, the stadium will rest on the northern bank of the Brazos River adjacent to I-35 and will be connected to campus by a pedestrian bridge. Baylor’s recent purchase of Hotel Waco in March would provide much of the needed space for construction once the old hotel is razed.
“The location at I-35 and the Brazos River is the preferred location for the stadium,” McCaw said, “because it provides Baylor with an extraordinary branding opportunity with more than 100,000 vehicles passing by each day.”
While funding for the new stadium has not yet been secured, the regents approved $120 million in other capital improvements, including funding for a new east campus residential community, Phase 2 of construction for the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) and the expansion of academic space for faculty and students in the Marrs McLean Science Building.
The new capital investments will be financed through the selling of bonds.
The bulk of the approved funding will go toward building the $70 million East Village Residential Community, which will house 700 students in two separate residence halls and include a new dining hall. These facilities will be home to the Engineering and Computer Science Residential College and a new Science and Health Living-Learning Center, according to Dr. Kevin Jackson, vice president for student life.
“I am very excited for the students of Baylor University,” Jackson said. “This is going to be an outstanding residential community that has been designed to meet their needs based on a broad range of input. … It’s going to create a signature residential facility on the east side of campus around which the campus will be extended into the future based on the university’s master plan.”
Construction for East Village will begin in March. The facility is expected to be open to students in August 2013.
Students who live in East Village, Jackson said, will have access to the existing East Campus Parking Garage, a parking facility currently two blocks away from the nearest academic buildings. The garage has a capacity of more than 900 parking spaces but sits mostly empty during peak parking hours on class days.
“That is an under utilized parking garage,” Jackson said, “so this gives us an opportunity to build right next to it and have that opportunity available for our students.”
The board also discussed a first draft of President Ken Starr’s strategic plan, which will go public in December and could include “the creation of an arts district and the construction of an on-campus football facility,” according to a university press release.
Starr’s plan will follow and build upon the Baylor 2012 initiative approved during the presidency of Robert Sloan, which called for, among other imperatives, making Baylor a more residential campus; attracting a world-class, research-oriented faculty; and achieving a $2 billion endowment.
Baylor’s endowment stood at just more than $1 billion in May, according to a university financial statement [PDF].
Phase 2 of the BRIC facility construction will begin the process of filling in 45,000 square feet of academic and laboratory space once the exterior of the facility is completed.
“We are excited about the Baylor Board of Regents approving funding for Phase 2 of the BRIC and the timeline it establishes,” Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research, said in a university press release. “This will allow Baylor to build the laboratory space needed for university research.”
The regents also signed off on $23 million in renovations to Marrs McLean Science Building, which will significantly upgrade academic space available to faculty and students. The School of Education and several of its departments will relocate to the renovated building upon completion of the construction.
Starr and Buddy Jones, chair of the board of regents, were not available for comment by Monday’s deadline.