GOCC updated on south side renovation

CENTREVILLE — Glen Oaks Community College’s Board of Trustees received an update on the college’s south side renovation during their monthly meeting on Thursday, Aug. 11.

GOCC President Dr. David Devier said the project, which he estimated back in March could be around $7 million to ultimately complete, has the “vast majority” of planning completed, with some other items, such as the exterior of the concourse, still being worked on with project architect Design Collaborative.

Jeremiah Hatfield, a senior associate with Design Collaborative, expanded on those items in his presentation to the board. He confirmed the company is wrapping up design on the concourse exterior, with a final package for the entire south side renovation coming soon to have contractors bid on.

The overall renovation of the south side of campus is expected to include work on the gymnasium entry, weight rooms, locker rooms, Allied Health classrooms and the Nora Hagen Theater. Hatfield said the goal with the project is to “transform” the college’s environment.

“Our design will transform your outdated, brutalist environments into functional, accessible, warm and welcoming spaces,” Hatfield said. “It keeps up with exactly the tone you already set with the north side renovations.”

With the gymnasium entry, the area is expected to be more accessible, with ADA-applicable stairs and ramps, with new doors and a redesigned lobby with a little bit of a raised ceiling. As for the locker rooms, there is expected to be four new locker rooms, with two home and two visitor locker rooms. Currently, there are only two home locker rooms, with no visitors’ locker rooms; visiting teams have to change in a classroom.

The new weight room, Hatfield said, does not have a lot of square footage – Hatfield estimated it’s 300 square feet – but they will be getting rid of non-functional lightwells and doing other work to it throughout the project. Currently, he described the area as a “tunnel” at the moment.

However, the biggest discussion about the project was once again the Nora Hagen Theater, which will be converted into an instructional auditorium, with the current backstage area being used for college storage. There will be all-new built-in desks for the auditorium with mounted chairs, with handicap/wheelchair accessibility on the first level of desks. In addition, the stage area will be shrunk to allow for the storage space backstage, as well as new acoustical panels, new carpet, and potentially new doors to the room and a new ceiling.

“The ceiling is old, so we’re looking at a couple different options,” Hatfield said.

Once it’s complete, the new auditorium would sit an estimated 200 people, about two-thirds of what the capacity is now. Devier said the renovation of the theater will be important because of ever-growing nursing class cohorts.

“We have the larger nursing cohorts, 40 and perhaps as much as 50 for second-years if enough transfers come in from LPNs,” Devier said. “That’s the driving force, plus this is right in the nursing area.”

Devier said the one downside to the Hagen Theater’s renovation, as has been mentioned in previous meetings, is not being able to put on theatrical productions on the stage. He said while it hadn’t been used for many years in that regard prior to the Sturgis Civic Players using it the past several years for productions, there are other auditoriums available in the area, as well as mentioned the need for an instructional auditorium at the college.

“There are places in the community, and we thought the need for a new, improved instructional auditorium outweighs the idea of being able to do productions,” Devier said. “You can have guest speakers or one-person shows, or something like that, but I don’t remember the last time the college had a theater program or even a music program. So that’s the logic of it.”

Trustee Carol Higgins noted there was some space down in the front between the stage and the seating, which could either be used for additional seating or, as Higgins suggested, potentially a mobile platform for “some of those kinds of plays where you don’t need all the props and curtains.”

Valorie Juergens, GOCC’s executive director of communications and marketing, said there have been a “few people upset” about the proposed transition of the Hagen Theater, but overall, despite “personal feelings,” said she realized having the instructional auditorium is “something the college really needs.”

“When you look at Sturges-Young [Auditorium], and I got a tour of that, they have a theater downstairs they don’t use that much, and of course they have the stage in the main hall, a stage in the dining hall, and the big stage,” Juergens said. “It’s not as good, the downstairs one there’s not a platform or raised seating, but it’s also a facility that’s not being used in the City of Sturgis, and we’d like to see it used more.”

In other business…

  • The board approved a new admissions policy to update military student policy.
  • The board approved a new course fees policy to update it with new classes.
  • The board approved a new emotional support animal policy to clarify policies to have students supply information and documentation from a doctor more in advance.
  • In her public comment, current Faculty Senate President Michelle McNamara reported that professor Chad Worthington will be the new Faculty Senate president beginning with this academic year.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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