Archive for Thursday, October 17, 1991


October 17, 1991


Kansas University today planned to ask the Kansas Board of Regents to approve an $18 million program for rebuilding Hoch Auditorium, a campus landmark gutted by fire in June.

If regents adopt the proposal, it will be forwarded to Gov. Joan Finney and the 1992 Legislature.

KU wants $1 million in July 1992 to complete planning for the estimated $18 million project. Under KU's plan, Hoch would be ready for occupancy in fall 1995.

Del Shankel, executive vice chancellor for the Lawrence campus, said he believes regents should accept the plan.

"It would be very unusual if the regents didn't accept it and allow us to make our case to the Legislature and governor," he said.

HOCH WAS gutted June 15 when lightning started a fire. Crumbling walls were partially removed, but cleanup has been delayed because of lack of funds.

Shankel said the university would have to lobby hard to obtain state financing to rebuild Hoch.

"We don't expect that it will be a particularly easy sell, but we think the state has a real obligation to meet these kind of emergency needs," Shankel said.

Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, said the project should be a high priority. But some legislators will be reluctant to spend $18 million on Hoch, he said.

"Prospects are dim without an imaginative, ingenious way of funding," he said.

SHANKEL SAID KU officials have spoken with some state legislators who are supportive of the Hoch project.

"The question is not one of willingness and intent. The question is, can they identify the funds?" he said.

Shankel said he expects legislators and Finney to pressure KU to raise the money for Hoch through a special fund drive.

"We wouldn't be surprised, but we think that would be unfair and not in line with the spirit of self-insurance," he said.

The state didn't carry insurance on Hoch. State policy is to self-insure buildings, which means the Legislature attempts to appropriate repair money when necessary.

"SELF-INSURANCE means nothing unless the state replaces it," said Rep. Betty Jo Charlton, D-Lawrence.

Shankel said Campaign Kansas, which has raised more than $210 million, is nearly complete. Major donors already have given to other projects, and it would be unfair to go to them again for Hoch, he said.

However, he said KU is desperate for classroom space. Courses previously taught in Hoch are held in Murphy Hall auditoriums and the Kansas Union.

"Students are not getting the quality they should in terms of physical facilities," Shankel said.

Allen Wiechert, university director of facilities planning at KU, said the rebuilding plan focuses on facilities that seat 500 to 1,000 people for classes and lectures.

"IN THAT fire, we lost the largest teaching facility on campus, and we have an immediate need for large classroom space," he said.

A 1,000-seat lecture hall, two 500-seat halls and four 50-seat classrooms are planned for Hoch. The 50-seat spaces will be in a cluster and have movable walls so that classrooms of various sizes can be arranged.

Wiechert said the other aim of the plan is to expand Anschutz Science Library into Hoch and connect the buildings with an overhead walkway. The library space will include areas for book stacks, study areas and administrative offices, he said.

Hoch's limestone facade and the lobby of the original structure can be salvaged, Wiechert said. But engineering reports recommend the brick back walls and balconies be razed.

"OUR PLAN is to construct the new walls in the same style as the facade and have a red tile roof again," Wiechert said.

To speed the project, the university has engineers and architects working on plans for the cleanup and demolition of the damaged portions of Hoch.

Wiechert said about $270,000 budgeted before the fire to reroof Hoch will be available for that work.

Winter said the Legislature traditionally has been reluctant to approve planning money if construction funding hasn't been identified.

Two common methods of financing state building construction educational building fund and state general fund won't likely be available, Winter said.

"I'M A BIG supporter of Hoch, but it's hard to justify $18 million from the general fund when we have more basic needs not met. And the building fund is spoken for," he said.

Winter said the project might be financed through issuance of bonds, which would be paid off by the state.

"If the university wants to go beyond replacement of the building and add bells and whistles, that money will have to be private," he said.

Shankel said the request for Hoch shouldn't derail other goals, such as enhancement of university employee salaries or improvment of the operating budget.

"It should be an entirely different matter. We realize funding is tight. We're only asking for $1 million in fiscal 1993. That shouldn't impact other needs," he said.

Shankel said Hoch has become the university's top building priority. Other projects will have to be delayed, including the addition to Murphy Hall, construction of a new School of Education building and renovation of Spooner Hall.

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