After a dreary budgetary season, Fort Lewis College received some good financial news Thursday.
Funds of $3 million have been included in the 2018-19 state budget to be used in the design and engineering of added space for the exercise science program at the college’s Whalen Gymnasium. The funds were approved Thursday by the Colorado General Assembly as part of the so-called “Long Bill,” which now goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper for his signature.
While the funds cannot be used to pay for the college’s operations, which have been cut by $4.16 million for the 2018-19 academic year, the money begins the design process for a long-sought expansion to accommodate the growing exercise science program that is so tight for space it is using hallways for classrooms.
“It should enhance our ability to recruit and retain students, and in the future that should enhance our operational dollars,” said Steve Schwartz, vice president for finance and administration.
The gym is home to basketball, volleyball and other indoor athletic events, as well the exercise science program, which is the school’s second most-popular program. It is the busiest building on campus and overburdened by the popularity of the exercise science program.
Eventually, the school envisions a $57.5 million, two-phase, multiyear plan to expand Whalen Gymnasium from 47,000 square feet to 121,000 square feet.
The $3 million approved in the state budget would pay for design and engineering of the first phase of the expansion. FLC must come up with $300,000 in matching funds to receive the design and engineering money.
Actual construction of the first phase would cost about $25 million, and FLC would have to come up with about $2.8 million in matching funds. The school will seek the $25 million from the state to build the first phase in the 2019-20 state budget.
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 east side, closer to parking lots.
The second construction 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 for the second phase.
Schwartz said the college has presented the project in two stand-alone phases, so that the first phase could be funded without the state committing to the second phase.
In addition to funds for the exercise science-Whalen Gym project, the Long Bill also:
Set a tuition increase cap of 5 percent for in-state students.Provided for $736,554 in increased funding for the school for 2018-19, a 6.25 percent increase from the current firstname.lastname@example.org