New Construction at the University of Tampa

2015 brought an especially hot spring and summer at The University of Tampa this year, as the 85-year-old university announced the construction of a new fitness center, completed the construction of a multipurpose academic and administrative building, and finished a complete makeover of its oldest residence hall.

UT has funded approximately $460 million in new construction since 1998, transforming the 105-acre historic and modern campus on the banks of the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa.

A One-Stop Exercise Shop

In April, administrators announced they will build a new fitness center in the heart of the UT campus to enhance campus life and the co-curricular experience for its approximately 8,000 students. Construction will be done in two phases with phase I consisting of two floors totaling 40,000 square feet. The completion date is set for mid-spring 2016. The phase II future construction will expand the center by an additional 20,000 square feet for a total of 60,000 square feet. The second phase will include additional classroom and lab space for related academic programs.

The fitness center will be a centrally located, one-stop shop for all exercise programs, personal training and evaluation, wellness and nutrition programs, intramurals, recreation activities, club sports and some exercise-related laboratory and research activities.

When complete, the new facility will be about eight times larger than the current fitness center. Specifically, the new center will feature six group exercise rooms, which includes one spinning room. Two small fitness assessment rooms have been incorporated in the floor plan, as well as a “flexible” classroom to allow for educational and training functions. A large number of high-end fitness machines (treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, etc.), as well as free weights, will be available. The center will also include offices for Campus Recreation and related staff, along with lockers.

Stephanie Russell Krebs, dean of students, said UT students have been eager for a new fitness center, seeing the center as a way to build relationships, relieve stress, have fun and be healthy. “We know that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important to UT students, and we also know that a healthy lifestyle can have very positive impacts on student learning outcomes,” Krebs said. “We believe this center will be beneficial in so many ways and will further enrich students’ UT experience.”

Architecturally, the building will feature high ceilings, open rooms and liberal use of glass to allow for sunlight and a connection to the outdoors. The open floor plan is intended to enhance visibility, foster social interaction and build community.

The new facility will also have expanded hours of operation. In alignment with UT’s commitment to environmental stewardship, the new fitness center will be constructed to be a candidate for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Total Makeover

Then, mere days before the opening of fall semester, UT finished its total makeover of McKay Hall, which is one of the UT’s oldest residence halls, dating 1959. Now it has the sort of amenities and comforts typical of UT’s modern, multi-floor living spaces.

McKay Hall, which opened in 1959 as a two-story, men’s only residence hall, is set on the banks of the Hillsborough River with outstanding views of downtown Tampa. All of the interior finishes, bathrooms, bathroom fixtures, windows, ceilings, doors, plumbing, mechanical/electrical systems, roofing and flooring were replaced. McKay Hall, which houses approximately 185 students, was the last residence hall on UT’s campus with one wing of communal showers, and those now feature suite-style, private accommodations.

However, the most visible improvement was constructing an enhanced, defined front entrance that leads into a new student community room with conference and study areas, offices for residence assistants, new restrooms and an upgraded common room. The common room provides residents a comfortable relaxation and socializing area, with recreational games, group study and conversation areas, offices, new furniture, a renovated kitchen, televisions and portals for charging and using devices. The views toward the river and downtown have also been opened up with increased use of glass. “These renovations put McKay Hall on the same level as other UT residence halls,” said UT President Ronald Vaughn. “Along with McKay’s historic nature, its central location, its view of and proximity to the river, this makeover will make it a desirable living location and improve the learning environment.”

A Model Space

Finally, on Sept. 3, UT opened its Innovation and Collaboration Building (ICB) after starting construction in November 2013. The ICB most notably features the state-of-the-art John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center and high tech cybersecurity labs. But it also includes campus safety offices, innovative classrooms, study spaces, faculty offices, a Starbucks store and four floors of parking. In fact, a student theoretically could park, enjoy a cup of coffee, meet with a study group, go to class, visit a professor and attend an executive business seminar on entrepreneurship–all without leaving the ICB.

The Entrepreneurship Center is of particular note, as it was designed to be a model entrepreneurship space in incorporating state-of- the-art design elements to enhance creativity, inquiry, inspection and innovative thinking and learning. The space encourages crossing of domains, field experience and experimentation, and allows UT to carve out a unique educational niche and better serve both the Tampa Bay region and UT’s entrepreneurially minded students. “It’s a holistic learning environment,” said UT President Ronald Vaughn. “It’s a special and unique environment built to foster creativity and imagination and to allow students to change the pace and contemplate, discuss, develop and launch entrepreneurial business ideas.”

The ICB adds a total of 511 classroom seats for students, 31 faculty offices, 386 parking spaces and 10 student gathering areas. The three academic and administrative floors add 65,000 square feet, plus approximately 148,000 square feet of parking, for a total of 213,000 square feet. The eight-story ICB has also been designed and constructed to be a candidate for LEED certification.

About the Author
Eric Cárdenas is the director of public information and publications at The University of Tampa, overseeing university branding and messaging; he’s also responsible for increasing awareness of the university amongst university stakeholders and the public.