Ohio University plans to start the construction of a more than $6 million academic center exclusively for student-athletes in August, with the goal of opening it a year later.
The construction phase of the project will cost about $4.3 million, Greg Robertson, associate vice president for architecture, design and construction, said. Through fundraising, $5.1 million has been raised, split between $2.4 million for the Sook Center and pledges totaling $2.7 million.
The Board of Trustees approved the $620,000 design plans for the Perry and Sandy Sook Academic Center in a June meeting. The design plans for the Sook Center include study spaces for students, offices for staff, meeting spaces and restrooms, Robertson said.
“I love it. Coming in as a freshman, it’s gonna be a huge recruiting tool for us,” A.J. Ouellette, a redshirt sophomore on the Ohio football team, said. “As a freshman, being up there trying to get your hours in, it was always full. All athletes shared that one floor. Having an actual academic center is going to be huge. We can actually have our own space.”
Student-athletes at OU use the 10,000 square-foot Joan and Wallace Phillips Center, in the third and fourth floors of Peden Tower, for academics. The facility accommodates about 440 students a year and includes 10 tutoring rooms and a 42-seat classroom, according to a previous Post report.
Last year, in the planning stage of the project, Faculty Senate voted to oppose the construction of the building. Faculty Senate is still against the project because they have some issues with the center, Chair Joe McLaughlin said.
“Given all of the faculty needs on campus, (Faculty Senate) was concerned that this project rose to a priority,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said Faculty Senate also thinks the university needs to integrate academics and advising for athletes with everyone else. He said all students on campus need resources, not just athletes.
Max Daniels, a freshman studying graphic design, shared similar concerns about the project. Daniels said the university should be putting money toward other projects, such as more renovations in Seigfred Hall. Renovations have been done in Seigfred, but Daniels said they are just to “keep the building standing." The university is hoping to complete an expected $17.6 million in renovations for Seigfred Hall by 2020, according to the March agenda for the Board of Trustees.
“In Seigfred, everything is dirty and old,” Daniels said. “It would’ve been nice to see them put money towards something we need.”
Daniels said student-athletes should use the resources everybody else does instead of getting an academic center to themselves.
Javon Hagan, a redshirt freshman on the Ohio football team, said the building is a good thing for the team and the university.
“First of all, academics first. If there wasn’t academics, you wouldn’t be on the field,” Hagan said. “Us building that academic center will be a big positive outlook on the campus and on ourselves so we can excel.”