There has been a lot of buzz about how the $75 million raised by the college’s fundraising campaign will be spent. While many in the St. Mary’s community have perceived that the funding will all go toward a new sports stadium, the money raised is actually going toward a two-part facilites project that is foremost academic. According to the 2012-2027 Facilities Master Plan Summary Document, available online, $60 million will be going toward a new academic building and $8 million will be going toward the Jamie L. Roberts Athletic Stadium.
The academic building will house the Education department, the Master of Arts in Teaching program and the Music department. It will also hold a 700-seat performing arts auditorium and a communal study space. The Education and MAT programs are currently in Goodpaster Hall, and the space vacated by their movement into the new academic building will become lab space for the sciences. The space vacated by the Music students in Montgomery Hall will be available for the Art department, the Art History department and the Theater, Film and Media Studies department. The athletic stadium will be comprised of a turf field, a natural grass field, concessions stands, and locker rooms. Both fields will have seating for 800 people.
The construction plan, which can be found in the Summary Document, places the new academic building where the current sports field is located. “We wanted the new academic building to be close to other academic buildings,” said Jackson. Additionally, the placement of the academic building will create an outdoor gathering space for residents of the Crescent townhouses and will create a path connecting Waring Commons to the rest of the campus. “The byproduct of that [placement is that we will have] to replace the current athletic field,” Jackson stated.
A new athletic field does not come unwarranted, however. Having a single, natural grass field is substandard for supporting five sports teams and does not meet the standards of the Capital Athletic Conference, according to the Summary Document. “Our women’s field hockey team plays most of their games on the road because other teams won’t [play on a grass field],” noted Jackson, and during Hawktoberfest, “a couple of the games that were supposed to be played were played at St. Mary’s Reichen High School, which has artificial turf field.”
Joe Lucchesi, associate professor of Art History and program coordinator for the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program, served as a faculty representative to the Facilities Master Plan Task Force, which met from fall 2011 to spring 2013. As a representative, Lucchesi helped gather input from the campus community on facilities needs, which was used to create the construction plans for the facilities project.
Lucchesi states that while the project is “primarily academic,” he realizes students have perceived the project to be focused on athletics. “I think that the emphasis on campus…was on the athletic facilities portion of this project,” said Lucchesi, who noted that public relations materials (such as the large banner hanging in the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics & Recreation Center) focused attention on the sports stadium portion of the project.
Additionally, private funding by the Jamie Roberts family for the athletic stadium has garnered that portion of the project attention, as has the fact that the stadium is being built first. “The new athletic facilities have to happen first so that the academic building can be built on the current site [of the sports field],” Lucchesi said, “but it’s all the same project.”
The athletic stadium, for which construction will begin in 2017, is set to be finished in 2019. The new academic building and auditorium, currently in its design phase, will have its construction begin in 2020.