Welcome Center and Baylor Basketball Pavilion construction on hold

The Mark & Paula Hurd Welcome Center is one of the projects put on hold by the university due to necessary financial reductions and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The timeline for completion, as of now, is uncertain. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Trisha Porzycki | Reporter

In 2018, Baylor announced the “Give Light” fundraising campaign to raise money for student scholarships, new faculty positions and capital projects. Some of the largest building projects include the Mark & Paula Hurd Welcome Center and Baylor Basketball Pavilion. With COVID-19, the timeline of these two projects is uncertain.

Baylor officials initiated their timeline of the welcome center at the groundbreaking ceremony last February before COVID-19 became rampant in the U.S.

“We ironically broke ground on the welcome center on February 21 last year. We had a big event at the site on University Parks and I-35 with President Livingstone and the Hurd family. We had no idea on February 21 what was on the horizon for us,” Vice President for University Advancement Dave Rosselli said.

The pandemic forced the university to carefully choose where they spend their money during the fiscal year. Rosselli said students’ return to campus and football season are two large factors in the timeline.

“COVID-19 caused us to be very conservative in our spending and aggressive in the reduction of our expenditures. We spent time as a president council and had to come up with 73 million dollars’ worth of reductions,” Rosselli said. ‘We had to be prudent in terms of what we were planning to spend this fiscal year. Even though we broke ground, we thought it would be necessary to put all capital projects on hold until we knew our students would be able to return to campus and Division 1 athletics program were going to move forward. Those two things would have monetary implications.”

Although the Baylor Basketball Pavilion’s start date is undetermined, the design and location discussions are still in the works. Currently, the university is looking into a site at the Ferrell Center or a Clifton Robinson Tower site for the new athletic facility.

“It’s a budgetary issue for the most part, and there are other partners we are working with on the [Clifton Robinson Tower] site, and everyone has to be on the same page,” Rosselli said. “We are still working through that. Whether there was COVID or not, we would not be in the position to make the decision of the location of basketball pavilion quite yet.”

Lafayette, Calif., senior Natalie Lira said she looks forward to seeing the university complete these projects, even if the timeline needs to be pushed back.

“I am happy to see the university has decided to add these buildings and features to our campus. I would have loved to see these when I toured here as a freshman. The designs are a great combination of the school’s past while adding a modern feel,” Lira said. “I am excited to come back as an alumnus in a few years and see the finished product.”

With students on campus this Fall and Big 12 conference play continuing, the future and timeline of the capital projects look promising, Rosselli said.

“What I would say is we are going to take this semester to be very conservative with our spending. We have the potential to be in a very strong financial position if all things continue to go our way,” Rosselli said. “We are hopeful we will be able to put a timeline together around January 2021.”