Wichita State to start construction on new residence hall after graduation ceremonies

That new residence hall that John Bardo promised soon after becoming president of Wichita State University last year will start construction this month, WSU officials announced Thursday.

It will be five stories tall and will be built in what is now the parking lot between the Morrison Hall administration building and Cessna Stadium.

The new hall will house about 770 students, with a 400-seat dining hall attached. It will cost about $60 million and be paid for by revenue bonds, which Bardo plans to pay off with housing revenue.

The loss of about 750 parking lot spaces will complicate parking, which is always an issue at WSU, when the fall semester arrives; the residence hall won’t be open until the fall of 2014.

In the meantime, WSU officials said, construction will start on campus right after graduation ceremonies May 17-18 on a field now used for intramural sports, turning it into a parking lot. That will regain about 400 of the 750 parking spaces lost north of Morrison Hall, WSU spokesman Joe Kleinsasser said.

Plans are under discussion about alleviating parking by asking students and faculty to park in the lot at the WSU Hughes Metropolitan Complex near 29th North and Oliver, about a mile and a half from the main campus. WSU will have to devise a bus shuttle system to make that work, Kleinsasser said.

Most of the students living in the new building will be first-year students, the university said.

Bardo, speaking last week to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, said one of the big problems he saw in coming here last year was that WSU needed to do something big to attract more students. Fall enrollment in 2012 was 14,898.

He thought from the beginning that he needed to significantly upgrade residence halls, making them more attractive to new students, and to move them to a more central location on campus. With state aid to universities dwindling year after year, and tuition rising, he has said many times in the past few months that attracting more students is a way to increase revenue, and that making the campus more attractive is a valuable strategy in attracting more students.

“We are too small,” Bardo told the Pachyderm Club last Friday. “We are at about 15,000 in enrollment, and we need to be at about (20,000) to 25,000.”

The university, in a written statement Thursday, said several room configurations will be built into the new hall — singles, standard doubles, double rooms with two singles, and quad rooms with four single bedrooms.

Each floor will have a laundry room, community kitchen and lounge area, the statement said.

Most of WSU’s residence halls date from the 1960s. Wheatshocker Apartments at 4000 E. 17th St. and Brennan Hall at 17th and Yale will no longer be residence halls. Bardo plans to raze those buildings, and Fairmount Towers near 21st and Hillside will be available for returning students only.

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