Visitor, Conference Centers a possibility

James Vaughn

If university donors give the university enough money, a Visitor Center and a Conference Center could be added to USI’s campus.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Mark Rozewski said construction could start years from now as they are in the very early stages of planning.

He said he doesn’t know for certain who the donors are, but he has an idea.

“If it’s not completely donor-funded, it won’t be built,” Rozewski said.

He said the university is not spending any money on the project because it’s not a priority. Core academic projects, such as renovating the Biology Department, are more important.

“Our money is really hard to come by,” Rozewski said. “It’s really just the core academic stuff that needs to be done with state dollars.”

He projected the Visitor Center to cost around $2 million and the Conference Center to cost around $5 million.

The Conference Center, which will span about 15,000 square feet, has an unconfirmed site near Reflection Lake, he said. There are no plans for the location of a 5,000-square-foot Visitor Center yet.

“Each will have their own life cycle,” Rozewski said. “Nothing is firm yet.”

He said most universities have a Visitor Center for prospective students and their families.

“We only have the lobby of the Orr (Center), which is nice, but it’s not standard for creating a good first impression,” Rozewski said.

Stephen Helfrich, director of facility operations and planning, presented the project at the March 7 Board of Trustees meeting.

He said it’s in the earliest stage of design

“In our business, we call it the conceptual phase,” he said

Helfrich said it would take about a year to fully design the buildings. If they weren’t on a donor schedule, they could have construction going as early as next summer.

Sophomore communication studies major Morgan Watkins said it sounds like a great idea as long as it doesn’t affect the price she pays for tuition.

“I don’t know if we need it right now, but USI is expanding at a fast rate,” she said. “We’re going to need it in the future.”

Watkins doesn’t agree that renovating the Biology Department should be a priority.

“I think that university money should go toward something that will benefit everyone and not just one department,” Watkins said.