Contracting firms bid on PAC renovation project

Bobby Shipman

The university is planning to spend $16 million to renovate the Physical Activities Center beginning in the spring of 2016.

The Board of Trustees Construction Committee, composed of both Finance and Audit Committee members, interviewed four contracting firms Feb. 9, that are interested in leading the project.

The committee will make a recommendation at the Board of Trustees meeting March 5, at which time the board will make a selection.

Funding for the renovations is coming from a capital appropriation.

“That state of Indiana is funding the $16 million upfront. It’s a great thing that we do not have to go out and issue debt to repay this,” said Steve Bridges, assistant vice president for business affairs. “As we spend money on the project, we will be claiming reimbursement from the state, and it’s nice that they’re cash funding the project. We are really appreciative of that.”

The design phase will begin directly following the board’s selection.

“With the design phase – and we did this with the UC East as well – we’ll bring in a number of constituents that are stakeholders in the building,” Bridges said. “The PAC is a great example of that. We have kinesiology, which is a major tenant in that building. Commencement is in that building. Athletics is in that building.”

He said that while the University Center is considered more of a student building, the PAC is more for the Evansville community because it is where most people go when they visit.

“We will want to get input on how to improve the building,” Bridges said. “We will probably spend some time dreaming big.”

The first thing they will look into updating is the kinesiology offices and classrooms.

For Bridges, dreaming big includes improve the PAC’s exterior and making it more hospitable to commencement ceremonies by improving the sound system and seating.

“It was cutting edge in 1980, but it’s not anymore,” he said.“We’ll have to scale back our dreams to maybe what’s realistic. In typical USI fashion, we are going to want to include as many people as we can and get the most we can out of the building because it’s used for a lot of things.”

Bidding firms included Hasting & Chivetta, who contracted for the Liberal Arts Building and the Science Center, Canon Design, Hafer Associates and MSA Sport.

“The groups that came in and saw the scheduling were shocked at how much just happens in that building, and were amazed that we can utilize it to the level that we do,” Bridges said.

He said each firm who presented felt the building has “good bones.”

“With a new construction, you may run into things with ground water and rock and that sort of thing,” he said. “But with a renovation, you don’t know what you’re getting into in the walls.”

Each firm presented their ideas on how to approach the project to the committee.

But Bridges said the firms don’t withhold the “key” input that the building’s stakeholder’s possess.

The idea of renovating the pool was one alteration brought to the committee’s attention, and Bridges said it will be an aspect of the discussion.

“The pool could be an expensive item, and so I would say that we will certainly look at the pool and certainly think about it,” he said.

At this time, there is no projected completion date, Bridges said.

“We will have to coordinate (renovations) with all of the activities that happen in that building, which will be exciting,” Bridges said sarcastically.