Murray state regents OK $12 million in campus improvements

Major updates are planned at the Curris Center, Lovett Auditorium, Wrather Hall, Carr Hall, Racer Arena and Waterfield Library.

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The Murray State University Board of Regents on Friday approved millions of dollars in campus upgrades, reported increased preliminary enrollment for the summer and fall semesters, and recognized various faculty during its first in-person quarterly meeting since February 2020.

A $12.3 million bond project, which the board approved for recommendation to Murray State President Bob Jackson, attracted much of the conversation during the meeting. The project would include major updates to the Curris Center, Lovett Auditorium, Wrather Hall, Carr Hall, Racer Arena and Waterfield Library. 

“We’ve got some catching up to do,” Jackson said of campus facilities.

Murray State Director of Facilities Management Jason Youngblood said in order to “get people excited when they walk through the door,” part of this project would renovate flooring, decor, painting and signage in the Curris Center.

Youngblood said some of these elements inside the Curris Center haven’t been changed since the 1980s. University leadership spoke to multiple student groups including Racer Esports to determine what improvements are necessary and possible, with renovations projected to last 12-18 months.

Renovations of Lovett Auditorium began in fall 2020 and would continue under this plan, receiving new seats, windows and exterior doors to the building, along with heating, ventilation and cooling work for the auditorium’s balcony. The proposed new seats are “1920s-style,” Jackson said, featuring the end caps from the original Lovett Auditorium seats. It would be funded by a $500,000 donation from the Murray State University Foundation Board of Trustees. 

In response to this donation, the Board of Regents also voted to approve the naming of “Trustees Hall” inside Lovett Auditorium. The naming would be commemorated with a plaque of recognition bearing the names of the trustees at the entrance or inside the hall.

“Perhaps the most iconic building on Murray State University’s campus is Lovett Auditorium,” said Murray State Executive Director of Development Tina Bernot. “There isn’t a day that goes by when there isn’t activity there, from lectures to concerts to public events, classes.”

The bond project also states Wrather Hall would receive new carpet, curtains, electrical improvements and upholstery, but unlike Lovett Auditorium, the seats wouldn’t be replaced.

Youngblood mentioned during his presentation at the meeting the need to get such buildings including Lovett Auditorium, Carr Hall and Racer Arena off central steam heating system and on individual, gas-powered boilers. He said the steam tunnels can create dangerous working conditions on those who maintain the steam lines.

“That steam system is pushing 60 years old,” Youngblood said. “The steam lines are getting to a point where they’re very deteriorated.”

Youngblood said the end goal is a heating and cooling system that’s more efficient and easier to maintain. For example, he said, if Racer Arena is properly heated and cooled, it can be used for a broader range of campus events beyond athletics. The Racer Arena HVAC system would be designed to accommodate 2,000 people, though the arena’s maximum capacity is much greater..

Many of these campus updates are being made in preparation for Murray State’s centennial celebration next year.

Various members of the university administration also shared recent enrollment data at the meeting. 71% of the university’s budget has gone toward enrollment this fiscal year. The preliminary enrollment headcount for the summer 2021semester is up 16% over summer 2019, and the preliminary enrollment headcount for fall 2021 semester is up 4% over fall 2019.

“[Admissions staff] have worked extremely hard over the last two years and particularly this year with some very challenging times with the pandemic,” said Don Robertson, the vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. “As we say in the office, they have just been grinding away every day to recruit every possible student to come to Murray State University.”

Murray State Provost Tim Todd also announced faculty members who earned Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Awards: Patty Parish in the Bauernfeind College of Business; Justin Grogran in the College of Education and Human Services; Jie Wu in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts; Diane Nititham in the Department of Humanities and Fine Arts; Laura Sullivan Beckers, Kevin Revell and Donald Adongo in the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology; and David Ferguson from the Hutson School of Agriculture.

“Of all of the awards that faculty have a chance to receive and to be bestowed upon, this one is really, really important,” Todd said. “Our faculty do an excellent job in service components and certainly in research components, but we have to do a great job in teaching.”

Todd also named recipients of the professor emeritus designation: Barbara Cobb, Scott Ericson, David Ferguson, Seid Hassan, Hamid Kobraei, Dale Ray Phillips, Allen White, Jay Zirbel and Steven Cobb.

Murray State Athletic Director Kevin Saal also highlighted the academic achievements of the athletics department, with students netting a department-wide 3.18 GPA during the spring 2021 semester. Saal said this marks the 34th consecutive semester the athletics department has achieved a department-wide GPA of 3.0 or greater.

“I’m just incredibly proud of our department,” Saal said. 

Murray state regents OK $12 million in campus improvements

WKMS

This story first ran on WKMS, the public radio station at Murray State University.