Continuing growth sparks new capital projects, boosts FHSU impact on state, local economies

Continuing enrollment growth at Fort Hays State University has created the need for four new capital projects.

"Our enrollment has more than doubled over the past decade, and we expect to see yet another all-time record when the official 20th-day headcount numbers are released later this month," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. "In addition to meeting the needs of our students and faculty, our new building projects will provide a boost to the local and state economies at a time when increased economic activity is sorely needed."

The total cost of the four projects is just a shade under $24 million, and President Hammond said Dr. Kathleen Arano, associate professor of economics and finance, calculated the economic impact on the region and state at nearly $38 million.

"She estimated the total economic impact on the state of Kansas at $37,903,995.40," the president said. "This economic impact for the four projects over the next three years is measured in 2011 dollars. She estimated the $24 million in spending would create 394 additional jobs, or $13.1 million in wages and salaries."

One project that has drawn a lot of interest is the development of new student housing on the site of the former and outdated Agnew Hall, which was demolished last year. "We knew there would be an increased need for on-campus housing, and I am pleased to report the first phase of the project will open on schedule for the fall semester of 2012," President Hammond said. The first phase will have 123 beds. The second phase, which will provide 107 beds, will open in fall 2013. The cost for the Agnew project is $9.2 million. That includes not only construction but also architectural fees, furnishings and so forth. Paul-Wertenberger Construction Inc., a Hays company, is the developer/contractor for the project.

Another of the new capital projects will change the face of the FHSU campus. A new road will be built along the dike by Big Creek, connecting Dwight Drive to Gustad Drive. At present, Dwight Drive passes between units of the Wooster Place housing complex and ends at the pedestrian bridge across Big Creek. Gustad Drive is the road that goes from the main campus to Gross Memorial Coliseum.

Bids will be taken for the new road on Sept. 6. "We hope to start construction in October and complete the project in two months, depending on the weather," the president said. The cost of the project will be about $480,000.

Another of the capital projects is a new academic building, which will be part of the redesign of the campus. FHSU has submitted a proposal to the Kansas Board of Regents for the building, which would house the Virtual College, the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technology, and the Department of Informatics. "If the Regents approve our proposal later this month, we hope to select a designer in October," President Hammond said.

The building would be located in the area between the dike and Tomanek Hall. The effect would be to create a second Quad in addition to the traditional Quad. If the building is approved, bids would be taken in late 2012 with a completion date of June 2014. The project cost for the new academic building has been estimated at $10.25 million.

The fourth capital project is a new indoor sports facility, to be located at the southeast corner of the FHSU campus, near Lewis Field Stadium. Plans for the facility were unveiled last June. At the time, Don and Chris Bickle and Bob and Pat Schmidt announced that their families would each donate a million dollars to the project.

The project cost for the 71,000-square-foot facility is about $4 million. "We are hoping to take bids late this fall, start construction next spring and begin using the facility in January 2013," the president said. "Just as Hays, Ellis County and western Kansas support FHSU in so many ways, we are pleased to provide a major stimulus to the economies of this community and the region."

Tom Kotch, plant manager of Enersys in Hays and chair-elect of the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development, released a statement prior to the news conference.

"The Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development is delighted to hear of the university's plans for construction on and expansion of its campus," Kotch said. "The total university investment in these projects -- $24,000,000 -- will obviously be a boost to the local economy. Estimates are that the total economic impact of these improvements will be just shy of $40 million, and that almost 400 jobs will be created. In addition, campus expansion means the potential for more students and faculty on campus, and consequently more residents and consumers in Hays and Ellis County. This once again reaffirms the importance of Fort Hays State University to this community and region, and the Coalition looks forward to continuing to partner with and capitalize on the university and its impact on the local economy."

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