President Rooney discusses campus master plan

President Gerard Rooney conducts his spring Campus Conversation meeting in Wilson Formal Lounge. (Photo by Joe Catalfamo)

By Joseph Catalfamo staff writer

St. John Fisher College President Gerard Rooney held a Campus Conversation on Tuesday April 9, which featured a presidential update regarding the Campus Master Plan and what’s in store for Fisher’s campus.

Senior Send Off

The session kicked off with a Senior Send Off that featured senior Chris Murray, a Media and Communication major, who told the story of his journey at Fisher.

Murray initially pursued his passion for television and digital media by getting involved with Cardinal Television, where he produced and directed many different shows for the club. He then shifted focus to the public relations field and became involved with the PRIMA Group, where he became an account executive for the PRIMA’s Gilda’s Cup event. Murray explained how every student and professor along the way has helped him excel, to help prepare him for a successful career in the future.

Campus Master Planning Update

Many different factors contribute to the working Campus Master Plan, as President Rooney explained during the talk. The staff that took part in the planning utilized a survey that had 1,131 responses: 760 from students, 143 from faculty and 228 from staff. Also, they used an analysis of infrastructure from fall 2017 that looked at features of classrooms and learning environments across campus.

The analysis found a total of nine classrooms worth of deficiencies throughout different academic buildings at Fisher. President Rooney displayed many aerial architectural prototypes and detailed images of new buildings, provided through Fisher’s relationship with Hastings + Chivetta, an architectural and engineering services company out of St. Louis, Missouri.

President Rooney touched on the current projects taking place on campus right now. The Skalny Science Center received $2 million in additions and renovations last year, and the building will see another $2 million worth of renovations next year as well. President Rooney suggested that 2019’s updates will focus on better lighting and ventilation improvements throughout the building, while last year saw more cosmetic and classroom-oriented updates. The Cleary Auditorium will receive around $750,000 worth of improvements, specifically major upgrades to the heating and air conditioning equipment. President Rooney mentioned that if you’re sitting in the right spot, you’ll almost “freeze to death” because of the uneven drafts and airflow throughout the auditorium. He stressed the importance of upgrading Cleary Auditorium to accommodate for more outside events and other large gatherings.

President Rooney also said that renovations to Fisher’s Athletic Field House will be coming in the near future. The hardwood floor in the Student Life Center is nearly 20 years old, and he mentioned the consideration of a multi-purpose gymnasium flooring to accommodate for all types of teams, like track and field practices and other indoor activities. That budget is estimated around $600,000. In 2020, there are plans to renovate and refurbish the Mainstage area that welcomes a larger venue for campus games, events, and leisure activities. Also, the campus plan includes an arts venue in Murphy Hall, which will be built in the former chapel space in Murphy that is no longer used.

President Rooney continued with a Master Campus Plan that over the next four years that included many intriguing advancements on St. John Fisher’s campus. A few of these addressed the parking issue, the School of Arts and Sciences, Lavery Library, athletic facility improvements and property acquisition.

He explained that the parking issue was a top priority for everyone who contributed to the master plan. With the new building plans, there are 160 new parking spots accounted for by expanding the Founders Hall parking lot, along with adjusting the parking lots near the School of Business, among other places. Also, the School of Arts and Sciences still lacks its own building, even though it remains the most-populated school at Fisher. “The Arts and Sciences School needs its own identity,” Dr. Rooney suggested, and that will come with a new building planned to replace where Pioch is built. He mentioned that Pioch’s foundation was not built to withstand multiple levels of floors, so an entire renovation of the building would be necessary. The proposed building is supposed to be 90,000 square feet.

The Lavery Library will see significant updates in the next few years as well. President Rooney boasted plans to implement a new coffee bar inside the library for students’ convenience. He also said that with more updates and renovations coming, along with use the two-sided entrance that was just recently built, they will add more windows and natural light sources.

Another major part of the campus plan is to obtain an indoor practice dome in the next few years. The dome will cover the practice field that sits behind the Ralph Wilson Jr. Athletic Center and in between the Facilities Building. The dome will act as a “short-term solution to interior practice space for teams,” Rooney said. The structure of the dome will be relatively temporary; instead of laying foundation for an entire new facility, the “dome” acts more like a bubble constructed with PVC piping and weather-resistant materials. This is an easy, cost-effective way to provide indoor practice space for athletic teams, without breaking the bank with supplemental costs of heavy construction. Many schools that Fisher competes against implemented similar hybrid-dome structures as well.

Looking further into the future, President Rooney suggested that major renovations and expansion of the School of Business is necessary, along with the addition of more academic buildings in general. The president explained that most parts of the Campus Master Plan are “consensual, and some things will be evolved as the process goes on.” The estimated cost for the one to four year plan is about $57 million, the five to nine year plan’s estimate at $63 million, and the long-term future projects are $68 million worth of additions and renovations.

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