Tennessee Tech News

Tech construction hits fever pitch

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The structural steel framework of the new Student Recreation Center at Tennessee Tech is now 65 percent in place. The $50 million facility, located at the corner of Willow Avenue and 7th Street, will be twice the size of the university’s current fitness center, which was built in 1991. The new center is funded by a fee put in place after a vote by Tech students.

Published Wednesday Aug 29, 2018

Anyone who makes a quick trip around Tennessee Tech’s campus can see there is a lot of construction going on, with work on the Tennessee Tech of tomorrow continuing at a level unseen since the 1960s.

All told, the university has more than $180 million in capital projects underway or recently completed.

“Campuses don’t normally see this much construction going on at the same time,” said Tech President Phil Oldham. “But we had needs and opportunities come together in such a way that we are making a giant leap forward.”

The new laboratory sciences building will be the largest academic building on campus at more than 165,000 square feet. It will house the chemistry department, a portion of the biology department and lab space for earth sciences, physics and environmental sciences.

The infrastructure work for the lab science building is nearing completion, and the facility’s above-ground structure is expected to appear soon.

The $90 million facility is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

It will be Tech’s first LEED certified building. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

In planning the building, more than 40 faculty members who will be teaching there worked closely with architects and designers to ensure the space would be one where collaborative teaching and learning combine with an inspiring atmosphere for students.

“President Oldham wanted us to be fearless,” said Jeff Boles, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “He wanted to be forward-thinking. He wanted us to design something better, something bigger, something ready for tomorrow that not only fostered and supported growth in enrollment but professional growth in faculty, staff and students.”

The new student recreation center’s steel structure has sprouted from the ground. It will be twice the size of the current Fit, which was built in 1991.

“We have a lot of new things in the new facility,” said David Mullinax, director of Campus Recreation. “We not only look at it as a fitness center and recreational area, but a place for social events and for students to meet one another.”

The new center will have three aerobic studies, three basketball gyms, racquetball courts, retractable bleachers for spectators, a weight room tripled in size, 6,000-square-foot cardio room, climbing wall, golf simulator, elevated track, swimming pool, game room and expanded child care.

It is expected to be completed in early 2020.

The $50 million recreation facility is funded by a student fee, which the student body voted to approve in 2013.

“The students bought into this early on. They funded this project themselves,” Oldham said. “They voted it in, even though they knew they wouldn’t be here to benefit from it. They paid it forward. I can’t compliment them enough.”

While the two new campus buildings have a few years until completion, another major campus construction project will be finished this fall: the expansion of the Roaden University Center.

The project expands the west side of the building, creating more than 11,500 square feet of new student lounge and dining areas on the ground and first floors, along with covered porches and a walkway bridge between Centennial Plaza and the first floor of the expansion.

The university centeropened in 1971 when Tech’s enrollment was little more than 6,000; enrollment is now more than 10,000.

Funding for the $7 million project came from state capital maintenance funds and a facilities development fee paid by students.

Other current capital projects include the renovation of Bartoo and Kittrell halls, and Browning/Evins Residence Halls; the installation of a video scoreboard at Tucker Stadium; and the rebricking and excavation of the Volpe Library.

For more information about campus construction, go to tntech.edu/construction.

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