Plattsburgh State announced July 25 that Memorial Hall is slated for a multi-million dollar renovation, and for Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Mike Howard, it’s more than just an athletic project.
“It’s a project that we see benefiting everybody on campus, which is a little unique,” Howard said. “If you’re doing a dorm, it benefits the people in that dorm. If you’re doing a classroom, it benefits the people taking that particular class or major. This is something that can hopefully benefit everybody.”
The renovation projects are being funded by SUNY’s State University Construction Fund. The fund’s mission statement defines its purposes as being, “to provide academic buildings, dormitories and other facilities for the state-operated institutions and contract and statutory colleges,” and to make sure that the construction of these facilities is completed quickly and as planned.
Due to state guidelines that govern the funding, the project has to take place within the building’s current footprint.
“It was shortly after I arrived that it was designated as the top priority of the college in terms of renovation projects,” Howard said. “The state’s construction fund has a certain amount of projects that they fund every year, and when you knock on their door enough times, they answer.”
Memorial Hall was built in the 1960s and has not had any significant renovations since that decade.
“A 50, 60-year old athletic building that gets thousands of people going through every year will obviously take a lot of wear and tear,” Howard said.
The planned projects encompass several areas including academic, recreational and athletic.
One of the major additions will be a new two-floor recreational gymnasium in the space currently taken up by the hall’s pool, which will close permanently in May of 2019.
Howard hopes that students will be able to make good use of the new gym.
“I see individual students over here all the time, especially in the winter, trying to get into the gym and are frustrated because we have a basketball game going, or we have basketball practice,” Howard said. “They can never go in and just shoot hoops.”
The loss of the pool was due to the space restrictions.
“If we could have expanded the footprint of the building, that would have put the pool much higher in the pecking order of what stays and goes,” Howard said.
Another large aspect will be the expansion of the building’s fitness center from its current 5,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet.
“We’ve seen some decline in our membership numbers over the last few years, and we feel like a lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s a lot of other fitness center opportunities in Plattsburgh,” Howard said. “Ours tends to be pretty cramped, crowded and the ventilation is not that great. Bigger space, better ventilation, brighter space and more equipment will make it more user friendly.”
Athlete health and strength will also be a large component of the renovation, as it will add a new doctor’s office and hydrotherapy room, a new sports medicine suite that will allow for athlete rehab and a new strength and conditioning facility.
Some of these services are currently available at the college’s field house, where men’s and women’s hockey, soccer and lacrosse are played, but the Memorial Hall facilities are currently lacking sufficient therapy and rehab services.
“[Memorial Hall] does a decent job of servicing men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, but when we have everyone coming in for rehab it doesn’t,” Howard said.
The renovation is slated to break ground in the fall of 2019. It is currently in the “design phase”, but is nearly ready for contractors to start bidding on the project.
“That design has to be approved at the state level, and that’s where we’re at right now,” Howard said. “As soon as they sign off on it, then they’ll come back and we’ll start working on specific pieces of the puzzle.”
An architecture firm out of Ithaca, HOLT Architects, will function as the principle architects for the renovations.
Howard has high hopes for the project, and for how upgrading a central campus building will be a boost for the whole school.
“All of our admissions tours go through here,” Howard said. “Let’s face it, 80 to 90 percent of students participate in some form of athletics or recreation before they come here. They may not be on a team when they come here, but they want to use this building.”
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