While Texas Wesleyan students enjoyed their summer break, teams of construction workers tackled major renovation projects all over campus.
These renovations were made necessary by the influx of students associated with the return of the football program, said Brian Franks, executive director of facilities development and operations.
“A lot of this is being driven by the football program, and everything associated with that,” Franks said. “It’s not just the football players. There’s other programs that are expanding that are relevant to the football program. You have a pep band that’s kind of starting up, women’s lacrosse and so on. All that’s tied to the addition of this new program.”
The renovations include the addition of a collegiate-level weight room in the Brown-Lupton Campus Center, which crews have been working on since the spring semester, Franks said.
“We were lucky enough to get a jump on the renovations that were needed for the football program in the spring semester,” Franks said.
Despite the early start, the project is still running into “overtime,” according to Athletic Director Steve Trachier.
“The project is running just a little bit behind. There were some unexpected things that came up,” Trachier said. “I’m guessing the project will be completed in a couple weeks, and then the facility will be available for the students to use.”
The previous weight room was unable to support Wesleyan’s larger athletic teams, like baseball, but the addition of the football program is what prompted the university to make the upgrade, Trachier said.
“The existing weight room was really cramped,” Trachier said. “It was almost impossible for our big squads like baseball to all get in there at the same time. The truth is, because of football, we were able to build this new weight room for all of our athletes.”
Dusty Cloud, junior criminal justice major and pitcher for the Rams, knows first-hand the necessity for the new weight room.
“When it comes time for the baseball team to lift as a team, we have to go in three separate groups,” Cloud said. “We can’t all just lift as a team like we would like to do. Even when we do split up, it is still very crowded.”
Cloud feels that by waiting for the return of the football to build the new weight room, the university put the needs of teams like his on hold.
“It feels that we were maybe on the back burner,” Cloud said, “that we weren’t going to get any new stuff like a weight room. But now that football is back they need a weight room for them, so we will take it.”
Nevertheless, Cloud is excited for athletics to gain the new weight room, even though he suspects it won’t be completed in time for baseball’s fall training.
“I am excited for the new weight room that is being built,” Cloud said. “It won’t be done by the time the baseball team starts our weight lifting program in November, but I’m definitely excited to get in there once we get back for the spring semester.”
Trachier expects many students will share Cloud’s excitement once the project is complete.
“I think our kids are going to be real proud of what we have,” Trachier said. “It’s going to be all new equipment. The facility is going to be very state-of-the-art.”
Athletics is also gaining a new laundry facility, Trachier said.
“We’re also creating a laundry room in the old grill kitchen area for athletics, so right now we’re working on some of the flooring, so that it will support some of the heavy industrial-sized laundry units,” Trachier said.
As is the case with the weight room, the current laundry room is unable to support the high volume of athletes joining Wesleyan’s roster, Trachier said.
“We have a real small one with one real small washer and dryer set,” Trachier said. “We have added well over 100 athletes, and we’re probably going to have another 75 to 100, so it’s not adequate to support the sports if we don’t add more to it.”
The renovations in the Brown-Lupton Campus Center end with the conversion of the second floor loft area into a meeting space for athletes, according to Trachier and Franks.
“The Student Life area, which was connected to the loft area on the second floor, was converted to the football coaches’ offices,” Franks said. “That loft area is now a video viewing room and meeting space for the football players.”
But this meeting space will be available for use by all athletes, not just football players, Trachier said.
“It is a place where teams can meet and look at film,” Trachier said. “The walls are designed so that they’re also sort of a screen for projectors.”
Since the new weight room encompasses the former Grille Works location, that operation moved to the Baker Building at the corner of Wesleyan and Rosedale streets, Franks said.
“We’re installing vent hoods, new cooking equipment and expanding the dining space. It will have a capacity of over 40 students,” Franks said.
That operation, now West Express Eatery, which includes not only Grille Works, but “Artisan Pizza” and “The Mexican Grill,” opened at the end of August, according to txwes.edu.
The Eunice and James L. West Library also underwent many changes over the summer, including the addition of four new classrooms on the second floor, Franks said.
“There’s a lot of moving around happening there,” Franks said. “As we continue to see the growth of the football program, that’s going to really drive the need for additional classroom space.”
Sheri Parker, library services and assessment manager, has already seen classes being held in the two large classrooms, rooms 213 and 214.
“The arrangement we made with the president was that those classrooms will be used in the mornings, and then in the afternoon and evenings they will become study spaces,” Parker said. “I know the football team comes in and studies, and so we have 75 to 100 guys in here at one time. So they’re using those large study rooms for that study space.”
The new classrooms were not the only renovations in the library over the summer, Parker said.
“They moved freshman advising to the first floor,” Parker said “It’s down in the southeast corner, outside the orientation room. It’s under one director now with the academic success center.”
Parker believes combining freshman advising with the Academic Success Center makes sense.
“It makes sense that they’re all together,” Parker said. “They work together a lot. Now they’re right next to each other.”
This space also now houses a large testing center, including a disability testing room, Parker said.
“They will also have a testing center now that will house a lot more people,” Parker said. “There’s a testing coordinator and a disability testing room. So if someone needs complete quiet, it’s a very small room that people can go into if they have special needs for testing.”
Like the weight room, there are also some renovations in the library that have gone into “overtime.” The furniture for the area for student-use computers on the second floor did not get ordered as planned, so not everything was completed as scheduled, Parker said.
“They took the second floor and kind of cut that back area into thirds. The middle area that’s open is going to be for computers, and that furniture did not get ordered until recently,” Parker said in an interview in late August. “So that part, the student-use computers, should be up and running in the next few weeks, we hope, it just depends on the furniture manufacturer.”
The library renovations came as a result of a collaboration between university President Frederick G. Slabach, Provost Allen Henderson, Franks and the library staff. The library still needs more storage space, but Parker is optimistic that everything will work out fine.
“We knew that they were needing more classroom spaces,” Parker said. “Elizabeth Howard, library director, asked all of the different personnel in the library to come up with ideas of what we would be best in terms of donating space. We narrowed it down, then took those ideas to the president. We kind of thought he’d take one or two ideas, and he took four instead. But it’s going to work out fine. Once we get some more storage space, I think it really will help.”
The library has also had to put several of its own construction projects, like the storage closet and the expansion of special collections, on hold due to these projects taking longer than expected, Parker said.
“Archives has just exploded in the past few years,” Parker said, “In almost every closet of the library, or space we have, is archive stuff, so we’re hoping to be able to move everything up to the third floor, so it will all be in one area.”
But these improvements aren’t free.
“For fixtures, furniture and equipment, and all the interior build out for the library, it’s just over $300,000. That does not include the IT equipment that was purchased last year,” Franks said.
Over the past three years alone, Wesleyan has spent close to $30 million dollars on facility improvements, Franks said.
“We have different funding sources,” Franks said. “We have the capital campaign for the new university center, so that’s being funded through donations. We have our capital improvements plan that’s being funded through the sale of the law school. There’s other projects that we tackle internally with our operation budget.”
The football program is one of those projects, and, so far, has cost about $500,000 in renovations, not including equipment.
“For the football program, I’m not responsible for the equipment, but all the actual interior finish outs, the renovations – you’re looking at about $500,000. That’s not being funded from the sale of the law school. The operating budget is actually funding that program,” Franks said.