Posted by William Nunnelley on 2006-01-17

Samford University broke ground in January for its new $32 million multipurpose center. The centerpiece of the facility will be a 5,000 seat arena for basketball and volleyball. Preliminary excavation and drilling for the project began the week of Jan. 11.

The Samford Board of Trustees approved the 132,000 square foot structure designed in the traditional Georgian Colonial style of other campus buildings at its fall meeting Sept. 16. In addition to the arena, the facility will house an athletics center with fitness and weight rooms, sports medicine and training areas, locker rooms and meeting rooms for teams, a student athlete academic center, offices for coaches and administrators, a chapel and other facilities.

"The multipurpose center will be a crown jewel of the campus," said Samford President Thomas E. Corts. "It satisfies our need for spectator sports as well as participation. Every student who passes through Samford will know this building. It should give us as fine a facility as any university in the Ohio Valley Conference and allow a student the joy of cheering intercollegiate teams to victory but also meeting his or her personal goals in the weight room and on fitness equipment."

The board awarded the construction contract to Stanmar, Inc., of Sudbury, Mass., specialists in the design and construction of multipurpose facilities. Trustees last spring approved the addition of the multipurpose facility, which will be the largest structure on campus, as part of some $53 million in immediate campus improvements.

Fundraising for these improvements is critical, stressed Samford Vice President for University Relations Michael D. Morgan.

"These projects will enable Samford to provide an enriched and more vibrant campus experience and will be meaningful to the Birmingham community as well," said Morgan. "The Samford Board of Trustees approved going forward with the projects knowing that funds would have to be raised to complete them. Samford is grateful for the generous initial response of its constituents and the community toward the $53 million total. Board members themselves already have committed more than $9 million toward this amount.

"But it is imperative that we continue to be successful in our fundraising efforts," Morgan added. "As with any privately supported enterprise, philanthropy is the key to the continued success of these projects."

Samford Athletics Director Bob Roller said, "The new multipurpose center will take us from worst to first' among arenas of this size in the Ohio Valley Conference and the nation. It's designed to keep the intimacy that has surrounded Samford basketball but will have all the modern amenities that we have lacked for many years."

A key component of the multipurpose center is a spacious, well equipped student fitness/wellness center for all students. "Lifetime fitness is important," said Dr. Richard Franklin, Samford vice president and dean of students, "and our students are eager to form good habits of conditioning as part of a complete education."

The arena will be used for convocations such as Samford graduation programs and concerts. Seating capacity in this configuration will be 6,000, with the addition of 1,000 seats on the floor. Of the 5,000 permanent seats, 3,000 will be chair back seats and 2,000 bleacher back seats.

"Being able to hold commencement on campus will be especially meaningful to families and friends of Samford students," said Dr. Corts.

The new center will be located west of Seibert Hall and Bashinsky Fieldhouse and north of Joe Lee Griffin Baseball Stadium. It will tie together the major recreation facilities into a west campus zone. The area includes the current location of Samford's Hardison Tennis Complex, which will be moved further west at a cost of $2 million.

Samford recently completed a 330 space surface parking lot adjacent to Seibert Stadium at a cost of $1.8 million. Earlier in 2005, the University added a new synthetic turf and other improvements to Seibert Stadium. These projects totaled another $1 million.

Other projects included in the $53 million total include a new recital hall, three new heating plants for various campus quadrants and a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for Robinson Hall, which houses Samford's Cumberland School of Law.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.