In an e-mail sent early Thursday morning, Tony Frank alerted campus officials of an opportunity for the University to save money in the long run by proposing an additional sale of $18 million in bonds to fund the completion of an academic portion to the new on-campus stadium.
“At this time, I am skeptical that we would actually proceed with the academic portion, but I think the option of discussing the opportunity is rational,” Frank wrote.
Later in the day Frank added the proposal as an amendment to the $164 million bond package that the Board of Governors was scheduled to approve. The Board approved the package and the amendment, boosting the possible total to $181.6 million, but Frank has yet to decide if he will move forward with it.
“Really what this does, is let us go ahead and have the possibility of having that financing, and this gives us a chance to look at moving forward,” said Mike Hooker, executive director of public affairs and communications. “We have always had the intention that there would be academic spaces as an element, and when that would be finished has been something that has been a variable.”
General fund money, coming from student fees, would go toward debt service payments on the academic space, which Frank estimates would be about $850,000 annually. The University generally uses this fund to pay for academic areas across campus.
“If we decided right now to not build the academic piece, then we wouldn’t proceed with the bonds,” Hooker said. “This gives us the option to do that bond issue.”
There is a possible 85,000 square feet of space along the east side of the stadium that Frank plans to reserve for academic space and an Alumni Center. The academic space would take up about 68,000 square feet of the total area and would cost $13 million to finish. At the board meeting Frank suggested departments from the college of Liberal Arts or all environmental units as potential departments that could be housed in the new space.
“If we finish it now, or if we hold off, the space will be there and available to develop at whatever point we decide is right,” Hooker said. He said the University will be considering input from the campus community until the Board of Governors meeting in June.
The new area would also include an Alumni Center that would cost $5 million. The Alumni Association would be responsible for paying the $325,000 in debt service payments for that space. Frank said he was “inclined to allow” this portion of the construction to move ahead because the financing is already in place.
Frank said the current plan is to build a shell of the academic space while they wait for funding to finish it. However, the new plan could save the University 50 percent on construction of the academic space by building it at the same time as the stadium, instead of waiting to finish it as Frank said was originally intended.
“The controversy of the project will certainly generate the inaccurate criticism that we are using general fund payments for the stadium,” Frank wrote.
He further wrote that he wanted to see if Faculty Council committees supported this approach, especially because the council recently debated a statement on shared governance and expressed a desire to work more closely with the administration. Five members of the executive committee of the faculty council resigned early April over issues of shared governance.
The Executive Committee of the Faculty Council plans to meet with Frank Tuesday to discuss the proposed changes.
Chair of Faculty Council Mary Stromberger said she was aware that there was space available to be built out for academic use.
“At the meeting, we will have to discuss the balance of saving the savings that we would get if we move forward,” Stromberger said. “But also, with the debt that is already being taken out on the stadium, and how much this would add to that. We need to hear the pros and cons, and then we will provide feedback.”
Collegian Assistant News Editor Christina Vessa can be reached at email@example.com. Executive Editor Kate Winkle and managing editor Kate Simmons contributed to this report.