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


Anonymous said...

This looks like a nice facility, and perhaps needed, but did it really have to be state-of-the art?
Also, the building will eliminate the only parking lot on campus where my family's van can fit (it won't fit in the parking ramps).
They are also getting the student center green-certified, meaning it will be "sustainable". Instead of focusing on state-of-the-art buildings, and being "sustainable", I think St. Thomas needs to focus on the following items 1.)recruiting excellent Catholic faculty in areas where they are lacking, especially the Sciences, Theology, and Business, maintaining the strongly Catholic identity of the Philosophy and Catholic Studies Departments. Also, we need to realize that every group of students is diverse in many areas. Instead of affirmative action, we should instead have special scholarships set up for low-income students to help them afford a quality Catholic education. If anyone is disadvantaged, it's low income students from the Twin Cities, and there are very few on campus.

2.) Putting more money into financial aid, and less on things that are "nice to have". The Anderson Student Center is a prime example. Do we really need a state of the art student center? No. Do we need a student center that is certified as "sustainable"? No. Do we need top-quality food served in our cafeteria? No. Do we need multiple food options for people? No, unless someone has a food allergy or other condition that mandates a special diet.
Instead, St. Thomas needs to focus on reducing the cost of tuition. Instead of a top-notch student center, perhaps a moderate quality one would suffice. And instead of top quality food, perhaps moderate-quality food that is still tasty and nutritious would work fine.
Instead of building a "sustainable" student center, perhaps the student center could be constructed to be energy-efficient instead. That both saves money and reduces energy consumption. Purchasing recycled paper and recycling also could be proactive, common-sense steps.
Also, the undergraduate student government and Student Activities and Recreation board is allocated a certain amount of money each year from tuition money for student events, such as free t-shirt giveaways. I would limit that money to being spent for educational speakers, and maybe a formal dance each year.

With the monetary savings from taking prudent steps like these, perhaps St. Thomas could afford to reduce tuition and help students seeking a quality, authentically Catholic education. Students should be drawn to St. Thomas not by the facilities, but by the people, the faculty, and the currriculum St. Thomas offers, as I was.
It used to be that Catholic schools educated Catholic students, especially the children of Catholic immigrants, how to live their Catholic faith in a secular world, and the teachings of the Church. Now, with the average St. Thomas cost of attendance at $35,000 a year, and financial aid covering less than half of that (and being predominantly loans), how is that compatible with social justice?
St. Thomas needs to get back to seeking to provide a quality Catholic education to qualified students seeking one, regardless of income level. I'd also like to see St. Thomas reach out to Catholic immigrants, especially Latinos, and recruit students from Latin America and Catholic countries in Africa, who would benefit from a comprehensive Catholic education. I'm sure there are donors who would be willing to contribute money for scholarships to attract such students.

Anonymous said...

I should also mention that I'm a current student at St. Thomas, so I have a firsthand account of what it's like here. I'm barely able to afford to go here, and I'm from a middle-class family. If it weren't for the scholarships and federal student loans and work study I've been able to do at St. Thomas, I wouldn't have been able to attend school here. I love St. Thomas very much, and I have lived here pretty much year round. That doesn't mean I like everything that goes on here, though. When you love something, you want to make it better, that's what I'm trying to do.

Anonymous said...

Totus, your post was very well stated. Unfortunately, in my experience, the Archdiocese of St. Paul has long since abandoned the goal to "provide a quality Catholic education to qualified students seeking one, regardless of income level." For evidence I refer you to the fate of Archbishop Brady High School in West St. Paul, and Cathedral High School in Duluth.

Unknown said...

Apostate Paul apparently has been away from the Church for a very long time.

For starters, Duluth Cathedral High School, my alma mater, is not in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It is in the Diocese of Duluth. And frankly, there were not enough Catholics in Duluth that could afford a private high school education.

I can't speak to the situation with Brady High School, but I would assume that the reason for its closure would be similar to that of Duluth Cathedral and the merger of Hill and Murray High Schools.

St. Thomas is in the middle of a $500 million fundraising campaign, funded by private donors, some not even Catholic. Nearly $400 million has already been raised. The Archdiocese has very little to say about what goes on there.

Philanthropic prosperous people don't like to give money to parishes these days. They can't have their name put on a church already dedicated to St. Romuald.

Anonymous said...

Apostate Paul, Ray is correct. St. Thomas is governed by a lay Board of Trustees. It used to be that the reigning Archbishop and his Vicar General were the ex officio Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees, but the Board of Trustees voted to change that in October of 2007. There was an agreement reached between the Archdiocese and the Board of Trustees, but the Archbishop has little direct influence over the governance of St. Thomas anymore. Also, the Board of Trustees is made up of mostly wealthy individuals, and the chairwoman of the executive committee of the Board of Trustees is a pro-abortion feminist judge, Diana E. Murphy, who has voted to strike down South Dakota's abortion laws several times during her tenure on the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The Center for Catholic Studies, (which includes the Catholic Studies Department) and the Philosophy Department, as well as the two seminaries on campus, maintain a strong Catholic identity, as does about a third of the undergraduate theology faculty. There's a battle going on on campus over the Catholic identity of St. Thomas, and, as students, we're on the front lines of it. If we want St. Thomas to stay Catholic, we need to let the administration know that we support the Catholic identity of St. Thomas. I think that in some aspects the student culture on campus has become more Catholic than it was when I was here as freshman, but there is still more work to be done. I've done my best in my (soon to be) four years here, and my freshman year a senior on campus started perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, with the support of the Center for Catholic Studies (although it is student-led).
If you want to support St. Thomas financially, and are concerned about Catholic identity, I would support the Center for Catholic Studies. Not only are they staunchly orthodox as far as Catholic teachings are concerned, but the faculty and staff there know the students by name, and the Catholic Studies Department also has scholarships that students can apply for. I'm a strong supporter of the Catholic Studies and Philosophy Departments on campus (but then again, those are my majors, so I'm a bit biased).
It's still possible to get a good Catholic education at St. Thomas, but you have to look for it, and you need to talk to the right people, who will help you find the right professors. That's what I did, and my faith came alive at. St. Thomas. I'm a much more devout Catholic now than I was as a freshman, and Catholic Studies and Philosophy, as well as my good friends, both lay students and seminarians, played a large role in that. There's a vibrant Catholic subculture here, but you have to look for it. Please keep St. Thomas in your prayers, though. There's definitely a split between those who want St. Thomas to secularize and those who want St. Thomas to maintain and strengthen its Catholic identity.
Archbishop Nienstedt has been very involved here, too, which I am happy to see. He comes once a month to do Lectio Divina in the chapel, and takes time to speak with each of the students at a reception afterwards. He also says Mass for the seminarians at SJV once a month, and I'm sure he makes regular visits to St. Paul Seminary (I'm not sure how often, though). I was happy to see that the Archbishop considers St. Thomas and the students here very important. He is a very holy man, and we are very blessed to have him as our Archbishop.

Anonymous said...

Good points made by both of you. But I still stand behind the gist of my original post. If the CATHOLIC CHURCH is committed to making a quality catholic education available to "qualified students, regardless of income level", both Brady High School and Cathedral High School would have been closed.

Anonymous said...

The headline is incorrect. They approved construction on the Athletic facilities. They will have another vote later to approve the new student center.