$45 million

by Rebecca Czaplewski

Students will pay $37.5 million for the Coffman Union renovation, the Student Services Fees Committee decided Saturday in a nearly unanimous vote.
The 18-month-long project is slated to begin winter 1999. During the renovation, which will add a 24-hour computer lab, air conditioning and improved accessibility among other things, the union will be completely closed to students.
The renovation will cost $45 million total. The remaining $7.5 million will come from Coffman’s commercial revenues. The Campus Club, University Bookstores and University Dining Services will contribute $5 million to the project, which helped bring the renovation costs down from an original projection of $50 million to $45 million.
After much debate and questioning among the committee, the group voted for a funding option that would raise student service fees incrementally for the next four years, rather than the original plan to raise it during the next three years.
Beginning in 1999-2000, fees will be raised by $26 per year, per student and will continue to increase for the next three years in a phased-in approach: $52 in 2000-01; $86 in 2001-02; and $95.50 in 2002-03. Fees would remain at the additional $95.50 per year per student until the 20-year bond is paid off.
The change was recommended because members of the fees committee requested options that would place more of the costs on students who will actually use the renovated union.
As the 13-member committee debated the renovation, most acknowledged the importance of their decision that will touch the entire University community.
“We’re here to make decisions, and this is tough,” said committee member Sarah Afshar-Naseri. “But I hope people aren’t afraid to make decisions for the future of our school.”
Many committee members had spoken to students in the past weeks to gain an idea of students’ opinions on the renovation. Others compared the current state of Coffman Union to other student unions across the country.
“The Great Hall at Madison is a great hall. When you go to Coffman, it’s just a big room,” said committee member W. Brandon Lacy Campos of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Memorial Union.
The approval to renovate the union didn’t come as a surprise to most Coffman representatives, although some admitted being nervous with so much at stake.
“I was biting my nails the whole time,” said Jorg Rivera, president of the Coffman Board of Governors. “I wasn’t sure of how it was going to go.”
Maggie Towle, director of Coffman Union, was pleased with the committee’s decision, particularly with their choice of the four-year phase-in plan.
“The four-year plan is an excellent choice,” Towle said. “The major burden will be on students who will use the facility.”
The approval of the renovation marks the end of three years of work by Coffman representatives to get the project off the ground. Cale Schultz, vice president for the Coffman Board of Governors, commended the committee for their approval.
“The key to it was the vision they had,” Schultz said. “Not thinking about today, but thinking about tomorrow.”