Mutipurpose Center plans come to fruition as construction dates loom

Key player in construction plans set to retire this semester

Douglas Franklin wrote the book about Ohio University’s planned multipurpose center, but will be retiring at the end of the semester — leaving his institutional knowledge about constructing campus facilities to remaining members of the multipurpose facility programming advisory committee.

Franklin, OU’s assistant dean of planning, assessment and research, penned the committee’s final report in June 2011 that addressed what the facility should encompass.

At that time, the committee planned on finalizing construction this spring, according to a previous Post article.

OU has yet to break ground on the facility, and has once again pushed back its start date from mid-April to sometime in May at the earliest.

Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student affairs, said OU selected a construction firm, Turner Construction, earlier this month. It will work with architectural firm Moody-Nolan to finalize construction plans over the next several weeks, Lombardi said.

The reins for the multipurpose center were recently passed from Athletics to Student Affairs.

The delay isn’t a concern, Franklin said, but having a multipurpose center on campus is a process he’s worked toward for the better part of his 19-year career at OU.

“I thought this thing was going to be in 10 years ago, so the delay, to me, is to be expected,” he said.

Previous attempts at putting a multipurpose center on campus were unsuccessful.

There was talk of turning the indoor tennis courts into an indoor practice and recreation facility around the turn of the century, but Athletics wasn’t copacetic with the idea, Franklin said.

Ping could have accommodated a conventional four-lane track, Franklin said, but a conscious decision to do otherwise was made to ensure it was used chiefly for recreation.

“They designed (Ping) in such a way to keep Athletics out of the building,” he said. “There was such tension between Recreation and Athletics that the people that designed the Ping Center made sure Athletics couldn’t be in there.”

Housing an indoor facility in a soft-sided structure similar to Eastern Michigan’s “bubble” design was even proposed at one point, Franklin said.

Bird Arena was initially designed to be a multipurpose center as well.

Not seeing any of the options come to fruition was “probably one of the most frustrating things” Franklin said he experienced during his tenure at OU.

Ultimately, an $8 million donation from Robert and Margaret Walter in 2010 made the multipurpose center a reality.

Once construction begins this summer, Lombardi said he will be able to focus on settling specifics for the facility, including staffing and establishing a daily schedule.

“Even though we’re planning for an opening in January 2014, because they don’t want to commit themselves to classes (there) in case something happens, they’re not planning on actually scheduling classes in there until the fall of 2014,” Lombardi said.

Franklin predicted the facility will be occupied by Athletics and classes during normal business hours and would be open to intramurals, club sports and rentals in the morning, evening and on weekends. A memorandum of understanding outlining the hours different campus factions can use the facility and how they will share its costs will be established before its opening, according to the final report.

Ohio Athletics declined to comment on any matter involving the multipurpose center.

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