Sunday, September 19, 2004

NKU sinks hook into revitalizing area near lake

By Andrea Remke
Enquirer staff writer

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - Northern Kentucky University officials hope that a $2.4 million revitalization of the lake area near the entrance of the school will create an inviting "front door" for the campus.

While university officials are waiting on an estimated $54 million in state money for the regional sports arena, NKU will forge ahead with its proposed Lake Vista development project.

Larry Blake, assistant vice president for facilities management, said the school has received authorization for phases one and two of the project, which include an amphitheatre and stage area, a bridge across the lake, two waterfalls, walkways, landscaping and fountains. Blake said the project will be paid for by private donations including money from Fidelity Investments and agency bonds.

"Right now (the area) is just steep banks and a pond with a lot of geese," he said. "We want to make it more user-friendly."

Chris Cole, director of media relations, said there has never been a nice place for students to "hang out."

"(This project) will connect more points across campus," he said. "We're really trying to create a front door for the campus."

"This is a major step in a five-year process to improve the campus," Cole said, in reference to additional plans for a re-vamp of the plaza near the lake and a new student union center.

Blake said the current student center was built for 5,000 students in the 1970s, but with the 14,000students on campus today, they are cramped for space.

Mark Shanley, vice president for student affairs, said the new center will consist of 83,000 square feet and will connect to the existing student center by bridge and basement corridor.

"This will prepare us well into the future," Shanley said.

The center, which would have a capacity for 20,000 students, will feature expanded food options, a grand ballroom, meeting rooms, student game room and a coffee shop similar to a Starbucks.

"Students are excited," said Andy Hixson, student government president. "There aren't enough places for student groups to meet," he said. "This new building will alleviate that."

Hixson said a common complaint from students was that they had nowhere to go when they were on campus for night classes, but that the new cafe will at least be open until midnight.

Shanley said the student center will be paid for by student fees and agency bonds once a state budget is passed.

The university anticipates construction to start next summer with an opening in the 2007 academic year.

NKU will open bids for phase one of the lake project - the bridge, waterfall, walkways and landscaping - Sept. 23.

Phase two includes the construction of a proposed amphitheatre, which will be integrated with the lake and will connect to the upper plaza. Bid opening and construction for phase two is expected in January 2005.

Both phases are expected to be complete by next fall.



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