The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 16, 2012

PSU within about $1 million of funds necessary for center

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A little more than $1 million is all that remains to be raised for a $30 million fine arts and performing arts center to become a reality at Pittsburg State University, its president announced Thursday.

In his annual opening address to faculty and staff members, Steve Scott said the university has hit the $29 million mark for pledges and cash in hand for the project. Last year, the university had $12 million.

Fundraising was propelled by the second largest gift in PSU history in March, when the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation made a $5 million gift in honor of H. Lee Scott, the former chief executive officer and president of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Scott, a PSU graduate, is also the brother of Steve Scott.

The project took another giant step forward in April, when students voted to add $7 million to the coffers through student fees.

“I’m ecstatic about it,” said Cynthia Allan, chairwoman of the department of communication, after the faculty meeting. She credited the student support with spurring additional donors to come forward.

“I think it’s fairly usual that when people see the support that students have for a project, it helps bring other donors to the table,” she said. “We have a strong alumni base. It was very clear that there was serious fundraising going on.”

In his address Thursday, Scott introduced four students from the Student Government Association who supported the project, and he told the group that he looked forward to the possibility of having broken ground by the time next year’s faculty and staff meeting rolls around.

Plans for the 90,000-square-foot center are in Topeka with state architects, and once they are approved, the bid steps can begin. At that time, the final cost will be determined.

Proponents have said the center will bring PSU to par with other universities in the state, as it is the only university without an auditorium. The last auditorium on campus was the 3,000-seat Carney Hall, which was built in 1919. It was razed in 1980 because of age and deterioration.

The new center is to be built on the northeast corner of Ford and Homer streets. Plans call for it to seat 1,100 in a main performance hall, with adjustable acoustical elements, a stage, an orchestra pit and technical spaces. It will include 250 seats in a theater with a flexible layout, a 2,000-square-foot art gallery and workspace for artists, and a 3,000-square-foot, multiuse and rehearsal space for large musical groups.

An entrance lobby and a garden/courtyard would be available for receptions and gatherings.

“We’re already starting to think about what we’d like to put in for our first season,” Allan said of the department’s theater program. “It’s very exciting, but very scary. When you’re working out of an old classroom for a studio, you kind of feel like, ‘What does it matter anyway, whether something works or doesn’t work?’ Now all eyes will be upon us.”

Allan and faculty members from the music department have said the consolidation of space for set construction, rehearsal and performance space, and costume storage will be a plus for their programs.

“Our options are much more broad now, and that’s very exciting,” she said.

Scott also announced that the university saw its highest total ever in fundraising last year, at $17.8 million. Nearly 30 new scholarships were created.

In addition, Scott talked about the continued growth trend in enrollment and sustainability efforts on campus, and noted the academic and athletic success of students.

Larger picture

THE FINE AND PERFORMING ARTS CENTER is one of three major capital projects on which the university will move ahead next year. The projects, which total $60 million, also include the expansion and renovation of Overman Student Center, and an event venue at Weede Gymnasium.

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