Board of Regents approves phase one for new welcome center, basketball arena

An artistic rendering of the Baylor Basketball Pavilion. The facility has a roughly-estimated budget of $105 million, and has $8.6 million approved. Also included in the Phase one of expansion are plans for a new Welcome Center. Photo Courtesy of Baylor University.

Matthew Muir | Staff Writer

Baylor’s new welcome center and basketball pavilion both received approval for their first phase of development at Friday’s Board of Regents meeting.

The board voted to approve funding for the phase one design of both the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center and the Baylor Basketball Pavilion projects. $5 million was approved for the welcome center of its anticipated $60 million budget, and $8.6 million of a roughly estimated $105 million was approved for the basketball pavilion.

Phase one involves the design and planning of the project, including architecture and infrastructure work. Jason Cook, Baylor’s vice president of marketing and communications, said phase one is the first step in realizing the vision of these projects.

“[It gets] architects talking with people who are going to be using the building and really start moving from the pretty pictures that you saw to really what that space is going to be,” Cook said.

Construction on the new welcome center could begin as early as next summer and could be completed by spring 2022. The welcome center project attained a new significance when its namesake, board vice chair and Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, died Oct. 18.

Jerry Clements, chair of the board of regents, said the project has become a way to honor Hurd’s legacy.

“With the passing of Mark Hurd, to have that building begin design and construction, and just be such a great example of everything that he stood for here at Baylor… it’s just a really great tribute to have that project at the forefront of Baylor,” Clements said. “We’re really proud of being able to showcase that and I think he would be really proud of that too.”

Hurd graduated from Baylor in 1979 and joined the board of regents in 2014, becoming vice chair in 2017. Baylor president Dr. Linda Livingstone said Hurd’s legacy is of a man who gave back to the Baylor community in ways beyond just donations.

“He spent a lot of time with our students, whether it was the business school students or tennis students… He was a kind of philanthropist and board member who really engaged on campus and in the community,” Livingstone said. “You appreciate folks like that that give their time in addition to their dollars because it does mean so much to our community.”

Hurd’s position on the board will not be filled immediately; Clements said that will happen during the regular round of appointments in May.

“[Hurd’s] position will be filled in May,” Clements said. “Although those shoes are too big to fill.”

The board also signed off on an amended compensation package for Baylor football coach Matt Rhule. While the specifics of Rhule’s contract are private, Livingstone said the foundation was in place before the first game of the season.

“While the board approved that contract today when we’re 8-0, we actually began working on this before we played a football game this year,” Livingstone said. “His vision for the program, his commitment to our Christian mission, his commitment to the development of our student athletes is what we want at Baylor… we certainly are thrilled we’ve done this well, but that wasn’t the driver.”