By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer
Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson unveiled two new projects at the Board of Regents’ Tuesday morning meeting in Frankfort.
The first is using space created by the future demolition of Combs Residence Hall to make a new entrance to the campus at Lancaster Avenue and Barnes Mill Road. The entrance will lead to four buildings destined to become an “Honors Program quad,” Benson said. In addition, the university is contracting with garden designer Jon Carloftis to create a large garden where the nearby tennis courts are now.
The president said the garden will act as a new face for the campus and create an open space for students and members of the surrounding community.
“I’m seeing couples come here for their engagement photos,” Benson said describing the space.
The tennis courts will be moved across the Eastern Bypass near the existing indoor tennis facility, he added.
Powell Student Center proposal
The second project, presented by Student Body President Sarah Carpenter, is a $25-million face-lift for the Powell Student Center in the middle of campus. Carpenter said the center will change to a building with a glass exterior. The cafeteria-style food court would be moved from the second to the first floor, but the pay-per-meal restaurants like Chick-fil-A would remain in the building’s basement.
The second floor would house offices for the student government association and department of student life.
Carpenter said the goal of the project is to make Powell more of a gathering place for students. The renovation will feature more rooms for student organizations, which number close to 300, to meet. Pods in the building also will allow the student center to be a study space when needed.
Entertainment is a factor in the project, she said. The area directly outside the building near the fountain on campus and the Meditation Chapel will feature more seating for students wishing to dine outside.
“This is a great open area that is underused,” Benson said.
He said students consulted about the plans gave similar opinions for the fountain-side space.
Additionally, three large screens will be installed on the outer walls of the building viewable from the outside seating area. The screens will project university sporting events live for those not able to attend in person and are anticipated to become a gathering place for students.
The center will largely be paid for by voluntary student fees, Carpenter said. However, since university administration often receives complaints from students not wanting to pay for a service that won't be offered until they graduate, Carpenter said the implementation of the project will be different from other university developments.
Some of the funds collected will be put toward smaller, short-term improvements to the campus offering current students a chance to benefit from the fees.
The two plans are the largest of several architectural updates Benson said he would like to see on campus. Columns and small towers may be added to several buildings along the roadside to match the classical look of the Keen Johnson and Roark buildings. Other projects, such as the Noel Reading Room unveiled at the president's convocation and the creation of a green space in front of the Begley Building, also are being developed, Benson added.
Representing EKU’s interests, the board visited Frankfort to appear before the General Assembly. Benson said university priorities for the legislative session include receiving funding for the second phase of the New Science Building and a renovation of the old Moore science facility, which was damaged in January when several water pipes burst.
Additionally, the school is requesting $2 million to develop hangar space for its aviation program, which manages the Madison Airport.
Following the meeting, the board went to the Capitol building to be recognized. According to Benson, it was the first time an entire university board visited the Capitol in recent history.
Seth Littrell can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6623.