Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Next Generation of Grand Valley

Over the last year there has been a lot of talk about Grand Valley State University. There should be, this year my alma mater is celebrating it's 50th anniversary. For more than a decade they have been the fastest growing university in the state, and are now in the top three schools in the state for enrollment standards. However the university has struggled for years with a severe and obscene lack of funds to operate with when compared with other public universities of similar size. They have also had the door slammed in their face over and over again when asking for a "raise" that helps them better serve their growing community. Furthermore GVSU is still struggling with a lack of popular support from the West Michigan community. I say popular support because the West Michigan business community has been fully behind them for years. The university is seen as a nuisance by many, while they support private institutions such as Calvin and Hope (political undertones are the likely reason). Many people in West Michigan still complain about the university despite the fact that GVSU's financial impact on the region is nearing $1 billion annually and virtually exceeds the economic impact of Meijer.

Slowly, opinions and popular support is growing as more people become aware of the impact and necessity of the fine institution in their backyard. Slowly, there have been facility and funding upgrades as well. Over the past four years GVSU has set out on a private fundraising mission to raise $50 million for university needs. At a donor enrichment dinner celebration last night it was revealed that four years and 17,000 donors later GVSU had infact raised $95.3 million, nearly doubling the original goal. This immense feat was not possible without intense support from the West Michigan business community and generous alumni. You can learn more about the project from today's Grand Rapids Press article:

Projects include the new Mary Idema Pew Library on the Allendale campus:

New Seidman College of Business on the downtown Grand Rapids campus:

As well as a new $9 million track and field and lacrosse complex on the Allendale campus, $4 million for improvements and expansions for Lubbers Stadium, the home of the GVSU football team.

The funding is sorely needed for the university, and was done with a majority of private financial sources after being denied public aid from the state level for the projects for a decade. The new library will be one of the most advanced and environmentally sustainable in the country and will push GVSU even farther to the front of the pack.

The additions to Lubbers stadium will take place over the course of two years, with the goal of being completed for the 2012 fall sports season. Step one in 2011 is taking out the old student section, and beginning to build a new one which wraps around the endzone better. The student section will be set back slightly from where the old student section was, but this is only for this year to prep for the final product in 2012. Also being completed in year one is a large hard-stand restroom and concessions facility on the South end of the stadium replacing the current porta-john and concession trailer maze. Phase two will be the total removal of the track inside the stadium (hence why the new outdoor track facility is going in when ard where it is). The field will then be lowered by about 7 feet. This will allow them to add a ring of four rows of seats all around the field bringing fans closer to the action. This will eliminate the need for a lot of grass seating, as well as raise the capacity from the current 8,500 to about 10,700. No design renderings of the stadium or track/field/lacrosse complex have been released yet.

Stay tuned, I hope to get out to Allendale with my camera to get some construction shots sometime in the coming weeks.

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