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Venue 365

Multiuse facilities let campuses do more: around the clock and with less space and money
University Business, October 2012
The Stockton Campus  Center at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
The Stockton Campus Center at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Prior to 2011, the sports and events facilities at the University of Mary Washington (Va.) were nothing to write home about. The university’s Dodd Auditorium had a capacity of 1,300 for concerts and other special events, and the Woodard Campus Center gymnasium, which was built in the 1950s, could only seat 500 and couldn’t be used for anything but sporting events.

“It’s not even as good as 90 percent of the high school gyms I’ve seen,” explains Richard R. Pearce, vice president for administration and finance and CFO. That all changed in August 2011 with the opening of the William M. Anderson Center, a multiuse convocation facility that seats more than 2,000 spectators for athletic events and more than 3,000 for concerts and other special events.

Designed by Moseley Architects, the 52,000-square-foot facility took nearly two years to build and houses athletic events, concerts, and inaugurations, and serves as an inclement weather location for outdoor programs planned throughout the year, like graduation. Before the building went up, “we basically didn’t have a venue that could do it all,” says Pearce.

Multiuse venues, he explains, are particularly important for institutions the size of UMW or smaller (UMW has 5,000 students).

“We just don’t generate the kind of revenue that can afford separate venues, so we’ve got to be very strategic on how we spend our dollars,” says Pearce. “Every facility we build we try to envision at least two or three uses for. A larger place can afford to build buildings that have a sole purpose. Smaller schools like us, we just cannot.”

In 2004, when University Business last covered the trend of multiuse facilities in depth, larger institutions were on the forefront, creating large sports stadiums that could generate revenue by doubling as a facility for hosting external events, like concerts and conferences.
Now smaller colleges and universities, like UMW, have caught on. Less motivated by profit, these schools are better utilizing their space to get the most bang for their buck.

Building Community Relationships

Building multiuse facilities is a great way to get the local community on campus. “[The Alderson Center] not only provides a venue that can be used in multiple ways for our students, but it’s also a great place for us to interface with the community,” says Pearce. “It really enhances our town/gown relationship.”

At The College of Saint Rose (N.Y.), a convenience store in the newly opened 94,000 square-foot, $17.5 million Centennial Hall residence is an inviting space for students and the college’s neighbors. Designed by EYP Architecture & Engineering, the POD (Provisions on Demand) market, operated by ARAMARK Higher Education, is on the first floor of a 225-bed residence hall.

Marcus Buckley, vice president for finance and administration, says the new residence hall is in an area of campus that was in need of a convenience store, on the end of campus where a lot of other housing is located, and on an edge of campus that abuts a residential neighborhood. He says the college worked closely with the city of Albany to create a space that would benefit the school and help create jobs.

“Community engagement is important to us,” says Buckley. “We aren’t going to be the college that ate our neighborhood. Instead we’re going to be a neighbor like everyone else.” As a result of opening the POD, ARAMARK was able to create eight new full-time jobs. Besides identifying a campus’ needs when designing a multiuse facility, Buckley says engendering a good relationship with the surrounding community should be the No. 1 priority. “Before this building got built, the community relations people and I went to more than 30 public hearings and community meetings about the property.”

Benefiting All Students

At Alderson-Broaddus College (W.Va.), a new stadium designed by The Collaborative Inc., is intended to serve all students, athletes and non-athletes alike. The 2,000-capacity stadium, once completed, will feature a pneumatic dome that can be inflated in the winter months, providing year-round access. At a school that previously had only a soccer field with no amenities or even bleachers, the new stadium will be a place where sports teams and intramural teams can practice and hold games. Graduation and other ceremonies will now be able to be held outdoors, and area high schools will be able to hold playoff games in the stadium. “It’ll benefit the entire school because both our students and our student athletes will be able to use this thing 24/7 for every day of the year,” says Denny Creehan, the college’s athletic director.

At Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, there isn’t a single student among the 8,300 there who doesn’t get use of the Stockton Campus Center, completed May 2011. Designed by KSS Architects, the 164,000 square-foot facility features a theater, an event center, gathering spaces, places to get food, student organization offices and meeting spaces, the bookstore, and all of the college’s support offices, from admissions to financial aid, among other amenities.

The idea for the facility was sparked by President Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., who started at the college during the 2003-2004 academic year. At that time, he had a space analysis conducted, which concluded that the campus was “remarkably short of space to serve student and our academic needs,” he explains. “One of the things that was clear was that, in terms of supporting students, we didn’t have all the services in one location, they were scattered throughout the campus,” says Saatkamp.

Students often had to walk from building to building to get a simple task completed, and on the largest campus in New Jersey at 2,000 acres, that could be quite a haul. “The other feature was to provide space that could be used in a multifunctional way.”

Creating Culture

Not only does the Stockton Campus Center provide a one-stop shop for students’ needs, it has helped create a culture of inclusiveness. “The school has become less of a commuter school and more residential,” says Saatkamp. “It’s amazing on the weekend how many students stay on this campus, and how the faculty and students sit around and gather. It’s a different cultural feel completely.”

Before this building was around, there wasn’t a central meeting place on campus. “The campus center really does unite the campus,” he says. “Having one place that is the campus center is very important and significant.”