Thursday, February 19, 2009

St. Thomas OKs $118 million athletic, recreation and student cente construction project


The University of St. Thomas unveiled plans today for a $52 million athletic and recreation complex and a $66 million student center on the university's main campus in St. Paul.

The board of trustees approved the athletic and recreation complex today. Work on the project, the largest in St. Thomas history, will start in late May.

The board discussed the athletic complex in October but held off on approval because of concerns about the weakened economy.

"Thanks to the support of generous contributors, we are able to move forward," said Father Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas. "Our facilities simply have not kept pace with our growth or the kinds of facilities now found at other Minnesota colleges."

The St. Paul-based school has more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students at campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The 180,000-square-foot athletic complex will be located east of St. Thomas' football stadium and will open for use in fall 2010.

Construction of the proposed 240,000-square-foot student center, if approved next year by the Board of Trustees, would begin in fall 2010 and be completed by February 2012.

The two projects and a parking ramp all will be named for Lee and Penny Anderson, who made a $60 million gift to St. Thomas in 2007. It is believed to be the largest single contribution by an individual or a couple to a college or university in Minnesota and is part of St. Thomas' $500 million, eight-year fundraising drive.

Lee Anderson is a St. Thomas trustee and owner and chairman of APi Group Inc., a Twin Cities-based holding corporation of construction, manufacturing and fire-protection companies.

The construction projects will significantly change the appearance of St. Thomas along both Summit and Cretin avenues. A statement by the university said St. Thomas is reviewing plans for the athletic complex with the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee and will go through a site-plan review with the city of St. Paul in the spring.

The $15 million Anderson Parking Facility that opened earlier this month will allow the university to close its parking lot at Summit and Cretin avenues. This will free up space for the athletic complex, student center and a larger quadrangle. Some existing buildings also will be replaced.

The Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex will feature:

• A 2,000-seat basketball and volleyball arena.

• An aquatic center containing an eight-lane, 25-meter swimming pool and diving area.

• A new field house with a 200-meter track.

• A west wing with a fitness center, weight room and aerobic rooms on the first floor and offices, classrooms and labs on the second and third floors.

Opus Northwest and Opus Architects and Engineers are the contractor and architect for the athletic and recreation complex and the student center. Opus has designed or built more than 20 buildings on St. Thomas campuses over the past 50 years. Ryan Companies designed and built the 725-car parking ramp.

A video, slide show, floor plans and animated aerial view of the future look of the St. Paul campus can be found on the university's Bulletin Today website:

More details from the St Paul Pioneer Press

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