New-look Marshall Center could cost more than $50M

A $48-million project to expand the Phyllis P. Marshall Center could cost more than expected, Student Body president Mike Griffin said.

Griffin attributed the change in cost to the damaged economy following Sept. 11.

Griffin said the project will be carried out in two stages. Phase I, he said, will cost between $20-30 million, $10 million of which will be needed to gut the existing building and prepare it for renovation.

Phase II, would cost about $25 million.

The total cost could now exceed $50 million, he said.

“Money is always an issue, but I refuse to let the money issue stop us from going ahead on this project. Students need this,” said Griffin. “We had a lot of momentum in the beginning of this project, but when Sept. 11 hit, it just wasn’t time to ask for money with all the budget cuts occurring at the time. If it wasn’t for Sept. 11, we would probably be talking about who would be building this thing right now.”

Griffin said money to enhance the Marshall Center for this project would come in the form of special fees and through capital improvement funds, while other funding for this project will come from various Student Government fund-raisers.

“It is yet to be determined if and how much student fees will be increased,” said Guy Conway, director for Student Affairs at the Marshall Center.

Griffin said that student fees may slightly increase; however, this will mean the students will “own the Marshall Center.”

“The students will have to pick it up,” he said. “That’s the way it has to be.”

But USF is a commuter school. One student says paying for a building she won’t utilize is unfair.

“Driving 45 minutes every day from Bradenton, I don’t have the luxury and time to enjoy most of the facilities at USF,” Jamie Miller, who is majoring in education, said. “I don’t understand why they should raise tuition to pay for a building I’ll probably never use.”Griffin disagrees though. He says although USF’s on-campus population is small in comparison to other schools of similar enrollment, thousands of students live within five miles of the university.

“Everyone (who comes on campus) has to eat a meal. Why not have it on campus?” Griffin said.

Conway said that the Marshall Center was first built in 1960 and has undergone minor renovation since. Conway is concerned that the 16,500-square-foot student union cannot comfortably fit the current student body of 38,500 students.

“During the first week of school, over 100,000 students passed through the Marshall Center doors. We need a bigger building that will suit and benefit the needs of the students,” Conway said.

Conway hopes to break ground on the 3-year project in the next two years.

Griffin said he has more confidence about this current project than he did when it first surfaced three years ago. Griffin said he is devoted to making the Marshall Center Enhancement Project a reality.

“We’ve simply outgrown this building, and the goal is to get financing approved before I leave office (spring semester) so that by next year we’ll get under way with construction,” Griffin said.To help USF attain this goal, the Marshall Center Task Force was created. The group, which consists of several students, makes sure the project runs smoothly. The task force also tries to find new ways of raising money to fund the project. Griffin said the Marshall Center Task Force is open to any students that are interested in making a difference on campus.

“When I heard that the Marshall Center was going to get bigger and have more varieties of food, I thought it was a great idea,” Michelle Stephens, who is majoring in education, said. “Once the Marshall Center gets re-done, we’re finally going to have that big university look, and I hope I’m still here to enjoy it.”

The project will create more room to allow for more fast food restaurants, student meeting rooms and will help accommodate the growing number of students attending USF. The project will also create a welcoming atmosphere that students can enjoy, Griffin said.

“It’s a gradual progress, but I know that we will eventually get there,” Griffin said.