University considers new venture

John Brown University has made many recent changes to various buildings and programs on campus, such as the J. Alvin dormitory renovation and in-the-works nursing program. Students, faculty and community members of Siloam Springs can now anticipate a renovation of the Walton Lifetime Health Complex.

Facilities coordinator Steve Brankle said the renovation would include a host of updates.

“The rec gym, Murray Sells gym and the soccer locker rooms would potentially be air conditioned,” said Brankle. “The cardio and weight rooms would be renovated. The common areas would be modernized.”

Brankle mentioned other upgrades and repairs around the complex, such as potentially repairing the pool deck, adding a community fitness center and a new parking lot to accommodate the changes.

At 25 years old, the facility is beginning to show its age.

“Needs and practices have changed,” Brankle said. “We are trying to make the building more user-friendly in order to attract more use.”

The J. Alvin renovations totaled a cost of $6 million and the updates to the cafeteria cost $1.3 million. The estimated cost of the Health Complex renovation is $5 to $6 million.

The project is still in the initial planning stage.

“At this point it is a proposed project,” said Brankle. “No money has been raised at this time.”

Thanks to the generosity of various donors, over $81.5 million has been given to JBU since July of 2010.

According to Krall, 40.26 percent of that amount came from various individuals, 48.46 percent coming from foundations. The remaining 11.28 percent came from corporations and organizations such as federal grants.

This week’s issue of The Siloam Springs Herald Leader reported that Siloam Springs city administrator David Cameron suggested a partnership between the city and the University, which would include a donation from the city in the amount of $500,000 toward the Health Complex renovation.

With the city board’s approval, Cameron will sign a letter of support that JBU can use as a fundraising springboard to draw a lead gift for the project.

Krall emphasized that lead gifts are key for any building projects and since the community currently makes use of the existing health complex, it’s important to have the support of Siloam Springs.

Krall explained what the next steps look like for the University.

“We will now explore with donors the possibility of a lead gift to this project,” Krall said. “If a lead gift materializes, we can then move forward with planning and further gifts to support the project.”

Should the University successfully raise the necessary funds, Brankle estimates the renovation to take approximately one year.