The construction and demolition of Southern Oregon University’s McNeal Pavilion has had some setbacks in the past few months due to budget issues. Now the next steps can be taken; demolition of houses on Stadium Street for the new student fitness center began January 7th and will finish up this week. The demolition of McNeal is set to begin now.
While walking past McNeal, a student may only see the exterior of a dull construction fence restricting access to an abandoned gymnasium, however the real work and demolition is being done on the interior. Drew Gilliland, Director of Facilities Management and Planning at SOU, said that hazardous material abatement had started in mid November and is what is currently visible outside the current facility.
Demolition was originally set for August 2015, but then rescheduled so the volleyball and football teams could conclude their seasons. The project was further delayed because the original estimated cost was several million over budget. Modifications were made to the plan, “We were unable to start the project until we reduced the scope and/or produced more funding”, said Gilliland. “This in mind, there was really no reason to start demolition earlier; otherwise, we would have a big hole with nothing being built. We also didn’t want to add the extra cost of providing temporary facilities for visiting sports teams if we didn’t need to.”
Right now, SOU indoor winter sports, like basketball, have relocated their practices and home games to Ashland High School where SOU “rents” locker rooms and gymnasiums.
According to Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Brian McDermott, there have been a few challenges with the relocation, one being practice time. “Practice has had to be scheduled to 6:00 am, which took a little getting used to, but our guys have done a good job being ready.” In terms of games, men’s basketball has only had two non-league home games because of the uncertainty in getting an available gym.
Women’s Head Basketball Coach, Alex Carlson, said that there is some difficulty with the relocation as well. “There are obviously a lot of logistical issues we have to work with because of so many teams needing access to the high school facility. Nonetheless, everyone is being very helpful and making it as smooth of a situation as possible.”
Coach McDermott’s thoughts on the new gym are “hard to say because of the ongoing changes.” But the general mood is upbeat, Coach Carlson mentioned that he is very excited about the new gym and thinks that having a top of the line gym and recreation center will be a great addition for the whole SOU community.
“We expect the Student Recreation Center to be completed and ready for Fall Term 2017, with the attached Academic and Athletic wing to be open either at the same time or soon afterwards”, said Gilliland. However, many who attend SOU right now will not have the opportunity to enjoy it, based on the current plans, a sophomore here at SOU will have graduated by the time the Student Recreation Center is complete.