KU wants to convert part of Robinson Center to home for ROTC programs; Regents to consider $15M project and others

photo by: Chris Conde

The World War II Memorial Campanile on the University of Kansas campus is pictured on Jan. 19, 2022.

The University of Kansas wants to spend $15 million to convert a portion of an aging gymnasium and recreation center building into a new home for the university’s ROTC programs.

The Kansas Board of Regents has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. Tuesday to consider approving a plan to undertake significant renovations to the Robinson Center on the KU campus. The meeting also will include approvals for eight other maintenance or renovation projects at KU.

The Journal-World had reported earlier this year that a $15 million renovation to Robinson Center, 1301 Sunnyside Ave., had been added to the university’s Capital Improvement Plan. However, the addition of a project to the CIP is no guarantee it will materialize, and the plan did not disclose details about repurposing part of Robinson for the ROTC program.

According to materials released by the Board of Regents Friday afternoon, KU plans to convert “underutilized locker rooms into offices and lounges.” The document said the renovated space would provide “a new home” for KU’s ROTC program, which is short for Reserve Officer Training Corps.

KU in recent years has been highlighting how the university can serve the military community, ranging from its role in providing foreign language training for military personnel to a relatively new program that provides specialized training in the intelligence services. KU’s ROTC program, however, isn’t new. KU has long had an active ROTC program, and the university estimates that KU is one of only about 50 universities in the country that have an ROTC program for the Army, Air Force/Space Force and the Navy. Many of the programs are currently located in KU’s Summerfield Hall.

The Regents document says KU plans to pay for the project with a mix of general university funds and use of the state Education Building Fund, which is money set aside for maintaining existing buildings. As part of the project, Robinson — built in the 1960s — will undergo major maintenance, including new HVAC, fire alarm and other system improvements. KU noted in the information to the Regents that many of the recreational programs once housed in Robinson are now located in the Ambler Student Recreation Center that was built in 2003.

KU estimates the Robinson Center project will be completed in the summer of 2023. At their meeting Tuesday, the Regents are being asked to approve the “program statement” for the project, which is a necessary step before money can be spent on the project.

KU also is asking for program approval on several other projects. They include:

• $3 million to improve restrooms, mechanical systems and interior finishes of Lewis Residence Hall. The 280-unit dorm building was constructed in 1960 and last had a major renovation in 1999. KU says it needs to improve the building to remain competitive in the local housing industry. Work on that project is expected to be completed by Spring of 2025.

• $3.5 million to complete masonry restoration, tuckpointing, cleaning and sealing of Budig Hall and Hoch Auditoria on the Lawrence campus. That work is expected to be completed by August 2025

• $3.5 million to replace air-handling units on the roof of Lindley Hall. That work is expected to be completed by the fall of 2023.

• $2.25 million to restore the masonry of Strong Hall. That work is expected to be completed in August of 2024.

• $1.6 million to add a chilled water-cooling system to the west wing of Strong Hall. Currently that portion of the building, which houses administrative offices, is served by window-unit air conditioners. That work is expected to be completed by August of 2025.

• $2 million to improve the electrical system on KU’s West Campus, which will create a redundant supply of electricity and allow for future expansion on West Campus. That work is expected to be completed by spring of 2025.

• $2 million to reconstruct parking lot No. 61, which is on the south side of campus near Sunnyside Drive and Sunflower Road. That work is expected to be completed by August of 2023.

• $1.3 million to reconstruct parking lot No. 72, which is on the north side of the Wagnon-Parrott Athletic Center between the Allen Fieldhouse parking garage and the Burge Union. That project is expected to be completed by August of 2023.

The slew of maintenance and renovation requests come during a year when the Kansas Legislature provided additional funding for the Regents system to address deferred maintenance issues.

The Regents will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at their offices in Topeka.


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