Home to sporting events, graduation ceremonies and numerous academic activities, Whalen Gym can’t keep up with the demand. On Friday, the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees approved making an expansion of the facility the No. 1 priority on its capital projects list.
“It’s the busiest building on campus year-round,” said physical plant services coordinator Cathy Gore, “and it’s booked from 7 in the morning to 10:30 at night. The first phase would include an auxiliary gym, which would relieve some of the stress.”
The expansion would include a name change to the Whalen Academic and Athletic Complex, creating teaching labs and facilities for the growing exercise program, a yoga and dance studio, expanded athletic and shared spaces between the exercise science and athletic programs and a new entrance on the eastern side, closer to parking lots. The expansion, which would enlarge the gym from 47,000 square feet to more than 121,000 square feet, would be designed to earn Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
All told, the expansion and remodel would cost more than $57.5 million, but it would take place in several phases over at least five years – if that is, the Colorado General Assembly comes up with a significant portion of the money.
FLC will ask for $3.2 million in the 2017-18 state budget to design and document the project, said Steve Schwartz, vice president for finance and administration.
The goal is to build the first phase beginning in the 2018-19 fiscal year, with 90 percent of the $25.5 million budget coming from state capital construction funding. FLC would raise the other 10 percent. The first phase, which would include the auxiliary gym and the exercise science facilities, would be scheduled for completion in 2020.
The second phase would include completing renovation of both the gym and Skyhawk Hall, where exercise science classrooms and offices are located, as well as construction on the north side of Whalen Gym. Costing an estimated $28.8 million, the college would be required to raise 20 percent of the funding. The second phase would be scheduled for completion in 2021.
The college’s advancement department would have to raise about $8.3 million total for the two phases.
“So much depends on the state,” Schwartz said. “It could be a while. It took 11 years to get funding for the Berndt Hall remodel and five years for the new GPE (Geosciences, Physics and Engineering) Hall.”
The GPE Hall, which is scheduled to open in late fall, required the college to raise $4 million, 11.4 percent of the $35-million project. The school has raised about $2.3 million in that campaign to date, said Vice President for Advancement Mark Jastorff.
“A difference is that we didn’t have the staff working on raising that money when the project started,” FLC President Dene Thomas told the board.
Jastorff said his staff is just starting to think about fundraising strategies.
“The GPE Hall is a narrower field of interest,” he said. “I think there’s a broader support and a different kind of loyalty, a different vibe, for this kind of project.”
Jastorff’s department also is tasked with raising $1.5 to $2 million for a new track and football field, all of which must come from private donors.
“It would be nice to have a track, since we have a track team,” Jastorff said.
While a remodel of the gym is included in the Whalen complex project, new bleachers are being installed now. The old bleachers date to 1971, when the gym was built.
“They hadn’t reached the level where they were unsafe,” FLC spokesman Mitch Davis said, “but it was coming.”
As part of its approval, the board endorsed a capital-project priority list, which includes an expansion and remodel of Reed Library, a new or remodeled theater and a remodel of Noble Hall.
“Durango has been very generous,” Davis said. “But we’ll need to engage our alumni more, get out in Durango more. It’s probably going to be a lot of Raiders (FLC’s former mascot) contributing to future Skyhawks’ success.”