Cowley College trustees face some tough decisions regarding a student dormitory at 2572 Greenway Road.
The board heard a review of the building’s condition from a subcommittee Monday and discussed the possibly of a new dorm on land known as Carver Park.
Trustee Dr. Steve Abrams said the facility, known as The Lodge, is in poor condition.
“To be blunt, it’s in pretty bad shape and it’s leaking water,” he said. “There’s quite a bit of damage.”
Abrams said the leaking roof has caused sheetrock to fall in several of the rooms. A professional roof inspector said that it would not last more than a year.
“This desperately needs a new roof, in his opinion,” he said. “It can’t stay the way that it is.”
The replacement cost is estimated at $300,000.
But there are additional concerns. Abrams said that students do not like to live at the dormitory, which is several miles from the downtown campus. There are no single-occupancy rooms and students have to share the shower facility.
“We just don’t have private showers,” he said. “They have to go down the hall to get showers.”
Abrams said prior to the pandemic, other college dorms had a 97- to 98-percent occupancy, while the Lodge averaged around 74 percent.
“The students really don’t like to stay there,” he said. “They apparently prefer being on campus or near the campus.”
Abrams said the committee also discussed the possibility of building a new residence hall in the Carver Park area at Eighth Street and Chestnut Avenue, west of Paris Park Pool. No official construction proposal has been made, but Abrams said the cost has been estimated at $4 million.
“That’s the big deal,” he said. “At the same time, it would be a huge draw for the students.”
Abram said the only other option would be to get estimates for patching the roof at The Lodge. That would allow more time for the board to determine the best course of action. He said the college maintenance staff would be able to complete all of the needed repairs inside the building.
Trustee Chris Swan also served on the committee and said that the college also needs to consider the possibility of extensive water damage to the substructure of The Lodge.
“That’s what we have to balance off and look at everything,” he said.
Swan said that a recent college survey showed that students prefer to be within walking distance of the college. He said those numbers, and the opportunity to construct single-occupancy rooms with private bathrooms, make a new facility worth considering.
“Regardless, we still need to do something to the roof of The Lodge — we can’t just let it cave in,” Trustee Brian Sanderholm said.
Board Chair Gary Wilson suggested that the staff obtain quotes for the needed repair and quotes for a new structure. The board approved the suggestion by unanimous consent.
The board approved a recommendation by Abrams for the college to obtain bids to install artificial turf on the college athletic fields. Estimated cost for that installation would be around $2 million.
That’s a lot of money, he said, but several advantages make it worth considering. Statistically, athletes have fewer injuries than on actual turf, and fewer games would need be canceled because many games can be held even during a rainstorm on turf.
“You just don’t have that mud as a problem,” he said.
Abrams said he learned that coaches and other maintenance staff often spend nearly 20 hours per week maintaining the grounds, with $40,000 a year spent on field maintenance.
“If the coaches are not taking care of the grounds, they might be able to pay more attention to the more typical coaching duties, including recruitment,” he said.
Abrams said the artificial turf would have a life expectancy of 20 years.
“I think we should keep moving forward on it for sure,” Wilson said.
The board plans to schedule a visioning session to discuss the college’s most important needs and determine the best course for the future.