Board of Regents ‘saves our pool’

Julie Knapp

Garrett Natatorium is here to stay.

Friday afternoon, dozens of people gathered in a standing room only atmosphere to discuss with the Board of Regents the possibilities for the Strength and Conditioning Facility.

One option – to renovate Whiting Field House – stood out as the clear favorite, with everyone who spoke favoring it, and little dissent from the regents.

Alex Wise, Chelsea Chaney and Vince Bowhay led the student effort to convince the regents the natatorium was a valuable asset to Washburn and the surrounding community.

“We collected 501 signatures supporting the pool,” said Wise, while speaking to the board.

Whiting Field House would be renovated so the Strength and Conditioning Facility was on the main floor, a second floor would be built so athletic teams could still hold indoor practices and a possible third floor could be built for classroom or office space for the School of Nursing.

Picking Whiting Field House was an easy step for the regents, but the accuracy of the preliminary budget for the project was up for debate.

Nancy Paul, vice chair of the board, said she believed, after looking at an updated budget, the numbers were under-inflated. Realistically, she said it would be impossible to renovate Whiting for approximately $106 per sq. ft. She also expressed concern the university would have to take more than $1.3 million out of reserves for the project.

“I believe these costs are too low,” said Paul to the fellow regents. “We need to go with this with our eyes open.”

Despite what many of the regents thought were discrepencies in the budget, they voted unanimously to renovate Whiting and have Schwerdt Design Group start working on the design of the new facility. However, they went with the recommendation that the third floor be designed as an alternate, so they could have multiple budget totals to choose from when seeking bids.

“I just hate spending and committing money when I don’t know how much it’s going to be,” said Regent James Roth.

Maggie Warren, chair of the board, said she was happy with their discussion on the budget, and Regent Blanche Parks thanked the students and community for coming to the meeting and sharing their thoughts.