News Editor: Hannah Collings
Over fifteen years since its initial conceptualization, The Pennsylvania Department of General Services gave Clarion University its go-ahead for a full renovation of the Tippin Gymnasium complex.
The renovation is funded by the state and is budgeted at $42.7 million.
Dr. Susanne Fenske, vice president of student affairs, said that initial construction should start in 45-60 days. In all, renovations will take about 18 months non-stop.
The gymnasium is over 50 years old and has been home to the University’s basketball, volleyball and swim teams.
Administration announced the commissioning of the project to coaches and athletic trainers in a meeting Tuesday.
“They’re all very excited,” said Fenske. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Additionally, the building has served as a meeting place for university classes, such as Tai Chi, and intramural and club sports. For some time, the University maintained a contract with a local swim club through the YMCA and has fostered other community partnerships, such as high school teams using the gym for play-off games.
“They’re gutting it. It’s not gonna look inside like it does now,” Fenske said of the severity of the renovations. Plans are to, essentially, redo the entire building, Fenske added.
The exterior of the building will also be subject to change. The initial blueprints are set to add four new wings to the complex including a two-story weight-lifting facility, new locker rooms for the pool, an auxiliary gym and an entrance concourse complete with concession stands.
The renovation will shut down use of the entire building.
Fenske said the renovation will relocate athletes to facilities such as the Recreation Center and high school gymnasiums. The swim team will need to travel to practice.
Spring 2018 graduates may have anticipated their impending graduation taking place in this building. According to Fenske, commencement ceremonies will be moved to Marwick Boyd Fine Arts Center until December 2019 or spring 2020.
Instead of the typical two, the use of Marwick-Boyd will most likely increase spring and wintercommencements to three. The University has not yet announced into what colleges they will divide the May ceremonies or at what times they will occur.
Fenske is optimistic about the renovation’s effects on enrollment, projecting that it will attract more student athletes, as well as increase the overall appeal of the campus.
“Overall the importance of that facility to the wellness of our students and the wellness of our athletes is a very critical part of engaging in a community in a thoughtful and positive way,” Fenske said. “It includes mental health, physical health, social aspects. We want to make sure our students have the entire student experience in a positive way.”
Originally, the University had plans to add a recreational pool the Rec Center, but, because of the enormity of the Tippin project, this addition is postponed.
Fenske said that the near future will see upgrades to the Rec Center, but these will be in the form of a redone upstairs, updated machinery, new carpet and equipment.
These, unlike the pool, Fenske said, are improvements that students requested and are most essential to the function of the building and campus health.