University of Akron trustees agreed Wednesday to spend $5 million to build out part of InfoCision Stadium for alumni and development, a catering kitchen and a welcome center.
The university will fund the project by transferring $4 million in funds internally, not borrowing money as initially proposed, and through $1 million provided by the alumni office.
“We know financial times are tough, but we’re working together to conquer and combat those problems,” Ted Curtis, vice president of capital planning and facilities management, told trustees.
UA officials said last week they need to close a $26.7 million budget gap predicted for 2014. They blame the gap on a loss of federal stimulus funds and a 3.5 percent drop in enrollment last fall.
But that doesn’t mean the university won’t need to invest in its physical plant, Chief Financial Officer David Cummins said.
“If we thought the space was OK, we would say that this is not the time,” he said. “This is very different from hiring expenses and ongoing expenses, and it’s cheaper to replace the space than fix it.”
Cummins said he would fund the project in part through a $325,000 annual payment from the University Foundation.
Curtis told trustees they needed to invest in their development and alumni staffs during lean times so they could work more effectively with donors.
“We don’t enjoy hosting people in the Stitzlein Center,” Kim Karson, assistant vice president for alumni and college-centered programs, told the board.
The five alumni office staffers in the Stitzlein Center and the 34 development staffers in the Martin University Center are in outmoded and unhealthy quarters on Fir Hill, Curtis said.
He said that while it would cost $4.1 million to outfit 28,600 square feet of the InfoCision Press Tower for the two departments, it would cost a total of $6.2 million to remodel the Stitzlein Center and Martin University Center.
Neither building complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act, both are too small for their staffs, the walls of the Martin Center leak when it rains and the Stitzlein Center walls have lead paint that must be abated.
Plus, even if the buildings were remodeled, the alumni and development staffs still wouldn’t be together.
The project also will include $900,000 for a 1,900-square-foot kitchen to serve InfoCision Stadium, a 750-square-foot welcome center on the first floor for potential students and their families and 80 new parking spaces on the west and north sides of the structure.
Curtis said construction will begin right away and should be done by August.
As for what will happen to the two buildings being vacated, trustees made no decisions.
Curtis recommended razing the Stitzlein Center, an 1870-era Victorian home UA bought in 1985.
He also suggested razing the Martin University Center, built as a private club in 1918 and purchased by the UA Foundation in 1978, or razing all but its iconic facade and erecting a new building behind it.
When the construction is through, almost all of the Press Tower will be occupied.
The third and fourth floors were built out to house sports science in 2010; floor five is the club level; floor six, the loge level; and floor seven, the press level.
The only space yet to be spoken for is about 5,000 square feet on the south end of the third floor, Curtis said.
The stadium opened in 2009.
In other business, trustees agreed:
• To raise law school tuition by 6 percent, lower out-of-state tuition to $50 above the in-state level and freeze tuition for the duration of incoming students’ studies at UA.
Current students also will be charged 6 percent more this fall and are not included in the freeze. The law school “is exploring all options” regarding tuition, interim dean Elizabeth Reilly said in an email. “We want to be sure we’re treating all of our students as fairly as possible,” she said.
• To promote Lauri Thorpe, assistant dean of admissions and student affairs at the law school, to special assistant to the president for enrollment management. Her salary will rise from $94,500 to $115,000.
• Increase room rates by 5 percent and meal plans by varying rates, depending on the option purchased, starting this fall.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.