“We have over 2,000 students and we just don’t really have the common area space here,” said student and Phi Theta Kappa President Cynthia Harrington. “We all needed a space to stretch out and grow with the services of a larger college.”
The center is expected to open in fall 2012 and will include basketball/volleyball courts, an indoor running track, gameroom, student lounges, grab-and-go café, the campus bookstore, and a weight and cardio room. It will not house classrooms.
“We, as a system, no longer build student activity centers, parking lots, parking ramps and things of that nature, we simply don’t have the capital,” University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “... And if it were not for our partners such as the [Georgia Highlands College Foundation] here, such as the [Bartow County Development Authority], we would not be able to build these types of buildings, and [we] certainly [thank] the students who had the foresight and wisdom to vote for such a facility.”
The center will be financed over a 30-year period through Wells Fargo, who sold bonds to investors to pay for construction. A $100 student fee will pay the debt.
“Everyone is very happy to pay the fee to have the space and the activities,” Harrington said.
President Randy Pierce thanked those involved with the center, giving credit to students he said may graduate before the center opens.
“I give [the student body] a lot of credit for seeing the big picture of the institution and acting in the best interest of the college’s future,” Pierce said. “That takes both maturity and generosity.”
Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown spoke on how the growth of the college will affect Bartow County. For example, the college’s recent announcement of offering bachelor’s degree programs.
“[Georgia Highlands College growth] is very important for economic development for Bartow County,” Brown said. “I just want to thank you for a dream I’ve had for quite some time, and I just want to thank everybody for being part [of the growth] and for inviting me out here to be a part of [the groundbreaking ceremony].”