More money, better union

Imagine a student union with retail space for a large food court area, a larger ballroom for dances, an auditorium for small concerts or lectures, a mini fitness area and offices. These are all some of the ideas Joe Synovec, assistant director for the Marshall Center, spoke about Tuesday when the Marshall Center Task Force held its first meeting to discuss plans for improving USF?s student union.

Mike Griffin, student body president, said he wanted to bring together a committee to raise money for the Marshall Center enhancement project.

Griffin said the committee has to compete with other establishments on campus, such as the Campus Recreation Center, to make sure the Capital Improvement Trust Fund, fees paid by state university students, to be used for non academic buildings, are used for the for the Marshall Center.

?There is a difference between needs and wants. We need a new Marshall Center, but the longer we wait, the more expensive and harder it becomes,? Griffin said.

The estimated $48 million project could become a reality if the university is able to receive the money from CITF. The university receives money from CITF every three years, said Syvonec. He said in the past 13 years the university has received $7 to 9 million in CITF funding.

In April, Student Affairs contacted the university letting them know funds could possibly be made available by CITF, Synovec said. According to Synovec, the CITF amount is based on the number of credit hours from the last three years. Funding comes from the students? tuition? $4.76 from each credit hour goes to the CITF.

?A committee has never been formed before to talk about raising money from the CITF, and we realized we needed to change the law to talk about increasing funds,? Synovec said.

External evaluation for the Marshall Center started in April 1999 when the university paid architects to look at the student union and give suggestions for improvements.

Woodroffe Corporation Architects and Jung/Brannen Association engineers came to the university and interviewed students, faculty and management asking them what they wanted to change at the student union, Synovec said.

?Architects basically locked themselves in a room with university architects to brainstorm and develop sketches,? Synovec said. ?Architects and engineers estimated the project to cost around $48 million.?

Guy Conway, director for the Marshall Center, presented sketches made by the architects to give the task force an idea of what plans can be made and to receive feedback on the prints.

?We want to bring the outside feeling inside with an open space that you spend time in everyday,? Conway said.

Sketches showed a Marshall Center that will eliminate Cedar Circle, also known as the Marshall Center breezeway, open another entrance and provide a vehicle drop off location at the Special Events Center, where Crescent Hill is now located. This will change the SEC, giving it a fountain and glass entrance, rather than just a brick wall, Conway said.

Along with expanding the student union to 250,000 square feet, there is a possibility of connecting the SEC to the Marshall Center and Student Health Services to the Bookstore with glass structures and a glass tower on top of the Marshall Center as an icon.

Synovec said undergraduates are picking schools based on the quality of life and the student union plays a role in that.

?It?s a 1960s building. Its not user friendly or welcoming,? Synovec said. ?We need to present a Marshall Center that everyone recognizes.?

Student task force member, Hans Wolding, said the task force needs to consider parking if they want to attract students to the new Marshall Center.

?You can?t put people in a building if they don?t have a place to park,? Wolding said. ?The people won?t go to the Marshall Center.?

Synovec said parking issues near the Marshall Center have already been considered with a master plan that considers building a parking garage where the metered parking lot is now located behind the Student Health Services.

?The thoughts, ideas and criticisms of students are most important,? Griffin said.

?We need to split up the responsibilities now and get things done at future meetings.?

Contact Grace Agostinat