A $57.5 million plan to expand Whalen Gymnasium in two phases received a hearing last week in Denver before the Legislature’s Capital Development Committee.
The gym – home to basketball, volleyball and other indoor athletic events as well as housing the exercise science program, the school’s second most-popular program – is the busiest building on campus and overburdened by the popularity of the exercise science program, said Steve Schwartz, vice president of finance and administration.
State lawmakers last week heard a pitch for the first phase of the project, which would cost $31 million, but in the next budgetary year what FLC officials are aiming for is $3 million to begin the design and engineering of Phase 1. Construction of this phase would have a $28 million price tag.
Funding for the project is separate from the operating budget for Fort Lewis College. It is part of the state’s capital development plan for higher education campus across the state. Funding is dependent on political approvals by the Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado General Assembly as well as that status of the state budget, which is dependent on the health of the overall economy and the generation of tax receipts.
If state funding is approved, the college would be responsible for paying only 10 percent of the costs for Phase 1 of the project, Schwartz said.
The proposed Whalen Gym expansion ranks tied for No. 7 on the Commission of Higher Education’s priority list for capital projects, Schwartz said. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s preliminary budget for 2018-19 proposes funding only the top five projects on the Commission for Higher Education’s capital building list.
A chance remains that additional projects eventually will be funded by the Colorado General Assembly, Schwartz said. Much depends on the state of the economy, and if the economy proves stronger than expected, he said, more capital projects may be OK’d by lawmakers.
Schwartz said officials from FLC also talked with several members of the Legislature to provide background and information on plans to expand Whalen to build the school’s case should more funding than anticipated materialize.
The expansion would include a name change to the Whalen Academic and Athletic Complex, creating teaching labs and facilities for the exercise science 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.
Both phases of the remodel and expansion, which would occur over multiple years, would cost more than $57.5 million,
The second phase would include completing a 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.
Schwartz said the college has presented the project in two stand-alone phases, so that one phase could be funded without the state committing to the later phase.