Regents must choose location of athletic conditioning facility

Lady Blues basketball team practices in Whiting Field House Thursday afternoon. The Board of Regents will decide whether to renovate Garrett Natatorium or Whiting Field House for the new Strength and Conditioning Facility. Because a second floor could be added to Whiting Field House, athletic teams will not lose an indoor court to practice on, no matter what decision of the Board of Regents is.

Julie Knapp

A renovation needs to be done.

The only question is – what does the university renovate in order to build a new strength and conditioning facility for Washburn athletes?

Friday afternoon, the Washburn Board of Regents will vote on whether to build the facility in Whiting Gym, a gym used for athletic practices; build it over the natatorium, the only pool on Washburn’s campus; or build a new free-standing building that would house the facility.

There is a $2.5 million goal to raise funds for the project, which Jerry Farley, Washburn’s president, said that he, the Washburn Endowment Association and the Athletic Department believe is reachable. In order to continue with fundraising though, the Board of Regents must choose a location.

“We have to decide – we can’t let it string out because we have donors,” said Farley, who has yet to decide on his recommendation.

Free-standing building

While Farley has not made a decision between the Whiting Field House and the natatorium, he has said he won’t recommend a new free-standing building, because it would be placed at the site of the facility services metal buildings. The relocation of those buildings would cost between $1.54 million and $1.63 million, which doesn’t include the project cost.

“I think most [donors] would prefer a free-standing building, but it’s the most expensive,” said Farley.

Garrett Natatorium

The pool and equipment at Garrett Natatorium is 25 years old, and like the other options presents advantages and disadvantages. According to options presented at the Board of Regents Budget and Finance Committee Jan. 11, pool usage has increased over the past year and a half, so covering up the pool could have a negative impact on donors and students.

Farley said it would also mean the Department of Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science could not hold classes in the facility. There are approximately 100 students enrolled in classes held at the natatorium this semester, but Farley said Washburn could rent space in area pools to conduct these classes so they wouldn’t have to be canceled in future semesters.

Farley also noted that the natatorium has high ceilings, that could allow for a second floor, and a bay of windows that allows natural light into the room.

Renovating the pool is the least expensive option. The cost of the full project would be $3,830,625. However, if they decided not to build a second floor in the pool room or put an addition on the south side, the lowest possible cost would be $1,654,750.

Whiting Field House

Whiting Field House, which opened in 1928, is used now for athletic teams to practice. Like Garrett Natatorium, it presents both advantages and disadvantages to renovating.

The options presented to the Board of Regents Finance Committee Jan. 11 note that there are some existing problems with Whiting that will add to the cost of renovation, and if Whiting is renovated, the pool will eventually need capital maintenance as well.

However, if Whiting is rebuilt, it keeps the pool on campus, and addresses problems in the old gym such as it not being ADA compliant, adding a new air conditioning unit and renovating the gym floors. It could also have three floors – one for the equipment, one for the gym floor and the other could add 7,084 sq. ft. for possible classroom space.

Besides the free-standing building, the renovation of Whiting is the most expensive, with the total cost reaching $3,972,800. In order to lower the cost, Washburn can choose not to add a third floor, and can phase out the remodeling of existing locker rooms – these would bring the lowest cost to $3,072,800.

“Sometime, work is going to have to be done on Whiting,” said Farley. “So I can justify using university resources for that project.”

Farley said they could likely meet their fundraising goal, because restoring a historic building on campus would give it more use.

“Whiting is sort of no one’s building [as it isn’t used for anything particular],” said Farley. “So this will give it something.”

The Board of Regents will consider these options at 3 p.m. in the Vogel room of the Memorial Union.