Regents OK face-lift for football complex

by Jessica Steeno

Glen Mason, head coach of the University’s football team, dropped in at the Board of Regents’ Facilities Committee meeting Thursday and walked away with a million-dollar commitment to revamp the school’s football facilities.
The regents approved Mason’s $1.25 million request, and gave the go-ahead for more than $17 million in other renovations, most on the Twin Cities campus.
Mason said the lack of proper facilities makes recruiting new players difficult.
“Not only do we have to recruit the best athletes in Minnesota, but we have to travel coast to coast,” Mason said. “We don’t have an ocean to show them, and we don’t have mountains. And the weather doesn’t always cooperate with us, especially in January and February.” Mason went on to say that having state-of-the-art facilities might help in the recruitment process.
The remodeling will include adding air conditioning to the indoor practice field and expanding the player locker room and lounge area. The construction is scheduled to begin in May and will be completed by August.
An internal University loan, to be paid back by the Department of Men’s Intercollegiate Athletics, will pay for $1 million of the construction, and $250,000 from the department’s account with the University of Minnesota Foundation will provide the remainder of the funds needed.
Most of the other remodeling projects approved by the committee during the same meeting are aimed at reducing the backlog of maintenance and repairs that need to be done to many of the University’s buildings. The University would need to spend nearly $1 billion for all of its buildings to comply with health, safety and disability codes. The problem is commonly referred to as “deferred maintenance” or “deferred renewal.”
The largest of the projects is a $12 million renovation of Haecker Hall on the St. Paul campus. The building, originally constructed in 1928, houses the Department of Animal Science.
Workers will tentatively gut and rebuild the interior of the building in November. The major reasons for the renovation are the need for up-to-date lab space and the removal of asbestos from the structure. University Architect Linda McCracken-Hunt said the renovations will shave $3 million to $4 million off of the University’s deferred maintenance backlog.
Williamson Hall is also scheduled for a second phase of renovations in May and will be completed by November. The renovation’s aim is to bring the building in line with safety and accessibility codes, as well as waterproofing the underground structure.
New escalators will be installed, and new sidewalks poured above the building as a part of waterproofing projects. The project’s projected cost is $2.7 million, all of which contributes to shrinking the deferred maintenance deficit.
The last of the projects costing more than $1 million — which is the maximum a construction project can cost without being approved by regents — is the renovation of the Humanities and Fine Arts Building on the Morris campus. The building will receive a $2.3 million face-lift beginning in May.
“Morris is extremely pleased to say that this is the first renewal project on our campus,” said Lowell Rasmussen, associate vice chancellor for Physical Plant and Master Planning at Morris. Rasmussen said the renovations will mark the first time in 25 years that a Morris building has been so thoroughly renovated.
Regents and administrators discussed the need to remove asbestos — a potential respiratory irritant — from buildings as they proceed with renovations.
“You know my feelings about asbestos,” said Regent William Peterson. “We shouldn’t leave a speck of it in there. If we’re going to get it out, then let’s get it all out.”
Roger Jeremiah, the University’s Environmental Health and Safety Asbestos manager, said he estimated that it would cost nearly $100 million to remove asbestos from all of the buildings on campus. He said that in years past, asbestos was used for ceiling tiles, floor tiles, thermal insulation and as a spray-on soundproofer. He estimated that 80 percent of University buildings contain some asbestos.