By Collin Brooks
The debut performance of East Tennessee State University’s Fine andPerforming Arts Center is closer than ever.
The $53.3 million project, which will be located across the street from ETSU and in the courtyard in front of the Millennium Centre, was approved by the Tennessee State Building Commission last Thursday. Jeremy Ross, ETSU Chief of Staff, said the university is planning to break ground in September, with a completion hoped for by the fall of 2019.
“It is very exciting. After decades of patience in this community for a fine arts center, we are now months away from a shovel being put in the ground,” Ross said. “So for all the patience, commitment and community support over the years, we didn’t take the easiest path, but I believe we will have the highest quality fine arts center possible in this region.”
The construction packages will come in phases, with the first — grading — being ready by August, according to Ross.
The $53.3 million will be split between many funding sources, with the largest — $28 million — coming from the state. ETSU is also funding the project, along with contributions of $8 million from Johnson City and another $1 million from Washington County. Also included in the funding sources are close to 500 private donations.
The 1,200 seat multi-purpose auditorium can be used for a variety of performances, practices and even classroom space. There is also a 200 seat recital hall for music performances, a studio theater and faculty offices and training spaces for performing arts.
The architect, construction manager and ETSU staff — Ross included — traveled to Nashville to present the TSBC with the concept of the building. They also viewed the plans for the building and the scope of the programming that will be offered. They also like to know it is in budget, Ross said.
“They liked the programming, the design and we confirmed that we were in budget, so it was approved to continue with construction documents,” Ross said.
That means that architects will now prepare bids for the contractors to put on the market.
The university also received news last week that renovations to Lamb Hall, the home of the College of Public and Allied Health, were approved along with Governor Bill Haslam’s budget. The $23 million will provide for renovations to classrooms, multi-media classrooms, laboratories and research facilities.
It is still very early in the process when it comes to the Lamb Hall renovations, Ross said, but he was hopeful with all things going well that 18-24 months would be an appropriate timeline.
The university will soon start the fundraising to meet their match and they still need to review the building with an architect to see how much they will need to renovate and how much of the work will be new construction.
The university is hopeful that their contribution of $5.75 million toward the Lamb Hall renovations may be reduced if the state changes their requirements on universities’ financial match. The current statute requires the university to raise 25 percent of the cost on capital projects. Talks include the possibility of that being reduced to 10 percent on certain projects. An answer is hoped for within the next year.
The D.P. Culp Center will also undergo a $41.5 million renovation over the coming years and the university is set to open their $22 million football stadium on Sept. 2 when the Bucs welcome NCAAA D-II opponent Limestone College, from Gaffney, South Carolina.