More than $50 million in construction and renovation projects are underway on campus. Add that to the recently completed $17.8 million Shearman Fine Arts Building Annex, the $10.5 million expansion and renovation to the Jack V. Doland Field House, a $1.3 million project to revitalize and update the Quad and the acquisition of the old Charles Cinema property on Sale Road, and you have quite a campus makeover!
A question that I am frequently asked is "How can McNeese afford to have so many construction projects underway?" The simple answer is that each of these projects has been fully funded almost entirely outside our operating budget.
For example, the new parking garage resulted from a vote of the students, who agreed to tax themselves to the tune of $75 per semester in order to enhance pedestrian safety and reduce parking problems. This three-story facility will hold 880 vehicles and will be equipped with the latest technology including LED lighting, a top-of-the-line security system and digital counters on each level to tell students how many parking spots are still available.
The new SEED Center, which is scheduled for completion in March, was funded with grants from the parish and from state and federal programs. The 50,341-square foot building is located on seven acres of McNeese property on the west side of Ryan Street. The SEED Center will centralize economic development and entrepreneurial activities for Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jefferson Davis parishes and will house the Chamber Southwest Alliance, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese as well as accommodations for training, conferences and classrooms.
Burton Residence Hall has been demolished and a new residence hall, almost completely paid for using FEMA funds related to Hurricane Rita, will be built on that site.
The renovation work on the Band Hall and Kaufman and Chozen halls, are all projects funded through the state's capital outlay process. Another one of these projects, the renovation of the Frazar Memorial Library, is expected to begin in January.
Capital projects are different from other forms of spending, because the result of a capital project is a state asset in a different form. In other words, at the end of a capital project the state has traded one asset-money-for another asset-a building improvement.
Through the generosity of the McNeese Foundation, we now own nearly five acres of property adjacent to the campus that was formerly the site of the Charles Cinema. This property is being used as a temporary parking lot while the parking garage is under construction.
I was asked recently whether it was really necessary for us to have to experience so many inconveniences at the same time. My response was that it was a lot like the question of whether it was better to pull a Band-Aid off your skin quickly, or a little bit at a time. I'm hoping that if we can survive all these frustrations for the next two years, we will emerge with a much stronger, more attractive and more functional campus we can appreciate for many years to come.