Gift spurs new cafeteria, housing

The University announced April 2, an anonymous $4 million lead gift jump-started an $8 million campaign to build a new banquet hall and apartments on campus.

According to Vice President of University Advancement Jim Krall, the new projects will be paid by gifts instead of tuition dollars. The money raised from the campaign will cover the cost of construction and endowment for operational expenses.

Last weekend, the University announced at its semi-annual board of trustees meeting the new banquet hall and apartments will open for students and the community tentatively in summer 2013.

“The next step in the process is to finalize construction documents, choose a contractor and if all goes well, start construction early August,” vice president of student development Steve Beers said.

The 17,000-square foot banquet hall, otherwise known as the Great Hall, will seat approximately 500 people. The Great Hall features the ability to divide into three separate rooms and include modern audio and visual presentation technologies.

Built adjacent to the Kresge Dining Hall, the Great Hall will be accessible for daily overflow in the cafeteria.

Instead of students overcrowding the Walker Student Center for dinner as events are held in the cafeteria, the use of the Great Hall will prevent such displacement during meal times.

The University learned in a survey the Kresge Dining Hall hosted thirty large events in which 250 to 300 people attended, and the Administrative Dining Hall held over 220 events.

“If you look at the current dining facility, it’s been the same for the last thirty years,” President Chip Pollard said. “The new banquet hall will provide more room for students and events.”

According to Pollard, the construction of the Great Hall could pose issues with parking as the fencing for the zone will extend into the lot by Bell Science Hall.

“This project will be the most disruptive because it’s in the middle of campus, but we plan on dealing with the parking issue by creating more spaces,” he said.

In addition to the new banquet hall, the University plans to build new townhouse apartment facilities, otherwise known as the North Slope Apartments.

The new 10,000 square foot townhouse apartment facilities will house nearly 40 students in an effort to enhance the residential experience on campus.

The University plans to build the apartments on the “north slope,” an area near the existing townhouses. The new apartments include two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open living room/kitchen area and individual laundry facilities.

Upperclassmen, married students, non-traditional students or even staff has the ability to live in the new apartments once they are completed.

“The residential experience is the core to many of our educational programs,” Beers said in a press release. “These new apartments will provide us with comfortable, flexible spaces to meet the housing needs of our diverse residential students.”

Beers expects both facilities to be open by July 2013, providing appropriate approvals by the City of Siloam Springs.

“The blessings of God have been a little overwhelming as a new campaign starts, but we are thankful for our donors recognizing a need on our campus,” Pollard said.