Canopy to be completed in installments

After running into delays, construction of a new canopy over the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Amphitheater will be temporarily be put on hold to meet the needs of the MSC’s bookings.

Joe Synovec, MSC director, said the canopy was initially slotted to be complete by Jan. 28, but is still being completed in phases. The first stage should be completed by March 1 – two days before a wedding is booked to take place at the site.

“Well, it’s gotten a little complicated,” he said. “They’re not going to make the Jan. 28 date, as you know, because we’re now in February. Well, they ran into some issues, and because I have contracts we have to honor, they are going to finish up what they’re doing now, which is the basic structure, and they’re going to paint it, get the electrical structure done, pressure wash and landscape it and return it to us on March 1 so we can use it for the rest of the semester.”

The “issues” were caused by a higher price tag for the project than expected. After switching contractors, Synovec said the total budget of $645,000 has not changed. Of the total cost, $45,000 will be paid by the Student Green Energy Fee to install solar panels and fans in the roof, which is expected to be complete by June 6.

“What we did initially was going based on someone who said, ‘Oh, we can do solar panels for $40,000,’ and then when we actually said, ‘OK, we got the money, we’re proceeding with the project, give us now, tell us how long it’s going to take you and what it’s going to cost,’ they came in (with a) higher (price),” Synovec said. “So we went out for more bids, which caused us a delay because we want to keep it all under budget and we want to be wise using the money we have, so we said, ‘You guys are too expensive.'”

Synovec said the initial deal could have cost USF “several thousand dollars” more.

After settling on the current contractor, Friedrich Watkins, designs for the project proved more difficult to implement than anticipated.

Kindell Workman, a junior majoring in political science and the president of PRIDE Alliance, said she booked a different location for the organization’s annual “Freedom to Marry” event, instead of using the amphitheater.

Many members of her organization were unhappy about the change in location to a make-shift dry stage in the MLK Plaza.

“I figured the amphitheater probably wouldn’t be done in time, so we scheduled it for the dry stage,” she said. “So we wanted it in (the amphitheater), but its a really important event because it’s really the only event we use to advocate for marriage equality.”

Though the MSC initially allowed people to book the amphitheater for use after Feb. 16, Synovec said all of the seven student organization events scheduled for use were moved to substitute locations.

Yet, the non-student clients, who pay to rent the space unlike student organizations, proved to be a bigger concern.

Three weddings have already been booked for the spring.

“With student groups it’s not an issue, because with student groups, we don’t enter into a contract,” Synovec said. “But when we do anything with non-University, we write a contract that says, ‘We will provide this, and you will pay us this,’ and if we weren’t to honor that because of something avoidable, you know, they could say, ‘My wedding is ruined,’ and they could seek damages.”

Synovec said USF will turn the site back over to the construction company at the end of the semester.