Old U buildings in need of renovation

Top priorities for the University are Northrop Auditorium and Fowell Hall.

Than Tibbetts

Despite the ambitions of University officials to build bigger and better buildings on campus, they still need to take care of the old ones.

Nearly 40 percent of the University’s 2006 capital bonding request is for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funds, money used to repair buildings across the University system.

Officials from the Office of Capital Planning and Project Management told regents last week about two higher-priority renovation projects, Northrop Auditorium and Folwell Hall.

Northrop Auditorium, built in 1928, is facing more than $20 million worth of “urgent issues,” including several safety-related problems such as emergency lighting and safety railings. Folwell Hall’s urgent issues, on the other hand, are related solely to the building’s exterior condition, officials said, and repair of those issues has an estimated cost of $15 million.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, said the University already faces challenges in convincing the state to pay for high-cost buildings. Two new buildings on the 2006 request for the Twin Cities campus total more than $40 million each.

University President Bob Bruininks added to Pfutzenreuter’s assessment by saying the University is caught in a predicament because it is the only state institution that needs large biocontainment laboratories, which are notoriously expensive to build.

The Board of Regents also approved plans for a new football facility at the Morris campus, which would be shared with the Morris area school district.

Morris campus Chancellor Samuel Schuman said the facility will continue to improve its athletics programs, particularly football, which was “demonstrably” the worst program in Division II before moving to Division III.

“We couldn’t claim to be the best public liberal arts college while being the worst at anything,” he said.

Regents then quipped they had funded one stadium, referencing the perennial issue of trying to build an on-campus stadium for the Gophers football team.