By Matt Kyle | Assistant News Editor
In just under a year of construction, the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center construction has progressed from an empty field to a towering structure visible from I-35.
On Thursday, Baylor hosted a walkthrough of the construction site to share the progress of the building, which Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman said is anticipated to open before the fall 2023 semester.
Members of the Board of Regents also ceremoniously signed a steel beam, beginning with Paula Hurd, a regent who, along with her late husband Mark, gave a gift to Baylor’s Give Light campaign in 2018 that was used to fund the Welcome Center.
Hurd said her husband would have been proud to see the progress on the Welcome Center. She teared up while signing the beam and thanked Baylor for the progress made.
“He loved this university more than anybody I know,” Hurd said. “A few months ago, we were here, and this was dirt and utilities. The progress that has been made is incredible. It’s impossible to feel the scale, and it feels wonderful that they’ve made this much progress.”
Dave Rosselli, vice president for advancement, said Baylor wanted the Welcome Center to be majestic, iconic, foundational and transformational to new and prospective students’ experiences. He said he sees these descriptors “coming to life” in the building.
“Prospective students — the first thing they’re going to do when they come on campus is walk into this building,” Rosselli said. “So it’s transformational in terms of what they experience. Everything’s going to be here.”
At the Welcome Center, Rosselli said prospective students will have a chance to meet with their admissions counselor, see all digital features in its pillars, walk to the auditorium that overlooks campus and observe a memory lane view of Baylor and the future.
The Welcome Center is still over a year away from being completed, but as it stands, the building is a shell that resembles what it will eventually become. The main floor has four pillars spiraling up to the ceiling, which will be outfitted with lights that will mainly glow white but can be changed to other colors.
Inside the base of each of these pillars will be an interactive experience — each intended as a metaphor for the culture and values of Baylor.
“Reflect” will project scenery of the Baylor campus onto the walls of the pillar to virtually put students on campus. “Connect” features a 320-degree video wall that will play videos of Baylor traditions and culture to introduce them to the Baylor experience. “Amplify” will display stories of Baylor alumni and the global impact of Baylor. “Aspire” allows participants to create and display a personalized message on the walls of the pillar.
Just off the main floor are spaces for a 255-seat auditorium, a multi-purpose ballroom, a Baylor spirit shop and a coffee shop. Angie McGregor, director of university operations, said the coffee shop would likely involve a national brand, but a final tenant has not been decided yet. She also said the coffee shop will serve Dr Pepper floats “on demand.”
The Welcome Center will also feature an Alumni Center on the second floor, and it will house the Admissions Department in the future.
Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communications, said the university wants the building to not only welcome new and prospective students to Baylor but also serve current students and alumni.
“During the day, from 8 to 5, it’s going to be a welcome center,” Cook said. “After 5 o’clock, we hope that this turns into another student space for students where they can meet in student organizations. They can have coffee; they could have Dr Pepper floats. This will also be a place to better study as well, so we really hope that this facility bridges the generations together.”