Trustees approve more construction projects

Mark Hammontree

The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees approved the budget for the 2014 fiscal year and several purchasing and construction projects Friday, including a $30 million renovation and expansion of Sewell-Thomas Stadium, UA’s baseball stadium.

The board approved a proposed operating budget for the University of $738.5 million in expenses, a $33 million increase in expenses from the approved 2013 fiscal budget.

The approved project for renovating the baseball stadium will be a comprehensive modernization effort that will include new locker rooms, a weight room and an indoor batting facility for the team, according to the project summary that was presented to the board. The project will result in new seating, a revamped concourse, skyboxes and club lounges.

“The existing stadium does not meet current standards and training methods and does not have sufficient space to support equipment and other function needs,” Lynda Gilbert, UA vice president of financial affairs, said in a memorandum to UA President Judy Bonner in August 2013.

Davis Architects Inc. was approved to design the new stadium, with much of the current stadium being demolished.

Also approved during the board meeting was an agreement between the University and the Alabama Department of Mental Health for the UA acquisition of 26.02 acres of Bryce property bordering Campus Drive East, McFarland Boulevard. and Jack Warner Parkway for $1.13 million.

The property will be redeveloped to support storm drainage infrastructure as well as provide recreation space for students, according to the plan presented to the board.

The property surrounds an old cemetery that the University will restore and designate with markers and fencing.

The board also approved several other construction projects in addition to the baseball stadium, including a plan to construct a free-standing Fresh Foods Co. dining hall that will have room to seat 700. The two-story, $15.6 million project will be located near Rodgers Library.

A plan was approved to construct a tornado shelter off 5th Avenue. behind the Child Development Center. The shelter, which will have space and restrooms to hold 725 people, will be able to withstand 250 mile-per-hour winds and will be available to any students, faculty or residents who are near the area in the event of a storm.

A proposal to construct a new parking deck near sorority row was also approved by the board. The parking deck will have approximately 750 parking spaces and will be located between Barnwell Hall and Martha Parham Hall, according to the project summary presented to the board.

Various other projects including renovations to Russell Hall, the Biology Building and Houser Hall were also approved.

An amended project budget and an owner/architect agreement were authorized for the construction of a new sorority house for Phi Mu. The $13.5 million project will be located on Colonial Drive and will have space for 66 beds and a dining capacity of 250, according to the project summary.

The board also authorized a plan for Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity to purchase and move into Kappa Alpha fraternity’s existing fraternity house. Kappa Alpha will purchase the equity in Sigma Phi Epsilon’s existing house and will demolish it to construct a new 17,753 square-foot house.