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Canopy to cover Marshall Student Center amphitheater

After months of planning and deliberation, a canopy will be constructed over the Marshall Student Center’s (MSC) outdoor amphitheater later this semester.

Construction is scheduled to begin Nov. 7, and is expected to be completed by Jan. 28.

MSC Director Joe Synovec said the idea for the project came after he and other MSC staff members attended several events at the amphitheater last fall. The intense Florida heat that plagued the outdoor events inspired them to build a structure to block the sun.

Synovec said a feasibility study was conducted from February to March to determine the estimated cost of the project, its projected design and its effectiveness in solving the problem. The estimated cost is $645,000.

The project will be funded by the MSC, which set aside a $600,000 budget for the project. Synovec said MSC officials hope to include solar panels in the canopy design, which would cost the remaining $45,000, and receive external assistance in funding.

“We’re hoping that the (Student) Green (Energy) Fee Fund will pay for the solar panels,” he said.

The Student Green Energy Fee funds are used to help USF conserve energy, reduce energy costs, lower greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy technology. If the fund does not pay for the solar panels, they will not be included in the project, Synovec said.

After the feasibility study was completed in May, the MSC, Student Affairs and Facilities Planning and Construction agreed to proceed with the project, Synovec said.

The canopy will provide shade, but is not designed to fully protect against the rain, Synovec said. It will almost entirely protect the stage area and some of the general area, but will be made of a permeable material to allow better airflow and lower the cost of the structure. It will also include large fans, similar to those found at the Campus Recreation Center.

“It’ll be a venue which is cool and windy,” he said. “It’ll be a space you can use comfortably.”

Erin Stassin, a senior majoring in criminology and English literary studies and president of student organization N.I.T.E., hosts multiple events each year at the amphitheater. She said the canopy would benefit student organizations hosting events there.

“It’s either hot or it’s raining (when we have the events),” Stassin said. “I think it’ll be helpful … because people do get very hot, and a lot of our events are very active, so people do tend to overheat faster with all the walking we do with the marches.”

During construction, the amphitheater will be fenced off and unavailable for use.

MSC officials had hoped to begin construction during the summer, but planning had not yet been completed.

Synovec said the area will be more comfortable to use and will generate more revenue that can be used to run MSC. Students are able to use the amphitheater at no charge, but non-USF members are charged $225. Departments pay half-price.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We think it’s going to make the space very much more desirable.”