UH Hilo holds groundbreaking ceremony for Student Life and Events CenterUniversity of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
The $14 million development represents the first of a two-step phase for the Center. Phase II is expected to include an events arena and conference center.
"We view this Center as a critical linchpin in our development as a premier residential campus in the University of Hawaiʻi System," said Chancellor Rose Tseng. "Facilities like this are a standard feature at universities we must compete with for students, so this really helps level the playing field."
UH Hilo officials began pursuing the project approximately 10 years ago and won support for Phase I funding from the Legislature in 2004. Playing a key role in this effort were a number of past and present students who met personally with State lawmakers and testified before legislative committees.
Some, like former UH Hilo Student Association President Liko Puha, acknowledged that they would complete their education before the Center opens. But that did not dampen their enthusiasm for the project.
"This facility will be a positive, helpful and sustainable resource for students, faculty and the community," Puha said. "That's how strongly we felt about it, and why I told lawmakers we were willing to pay higher student fees if that‘s what it would take to make it happen."
In fact, the Center‘s impact will extend far beyond the UH Hilo campus. Business, community and political leaders have for some time, insisted that the Hilo community, with a surrounding population of 70,000, has the potential to become more of a "college town" which supports the University campus much like many small communities on the mainland.
That vision relies heavily on attracting growing numbers of students, as spelled out in the University‘s long-range strategic plan. But while the Big Island‘s unique physical and cultural environment has been an asset to student recruitment and retention, challenges remain. These include a lack of recreational resources, heavy rainfall, and limited public transportation.
"One of the most important components of a college town is the availability of activities that students can take part in to develop friendships and social networks," said University Relations Director Gerald De Mello. "Presently, the distance between the UH Hilo campus and most centers of activities is too great for students who often lack their own transportation."
The Student Life and Events Center will fulfill the need for additional recreational activities on campus, while providing students an attractive and healthy alternative when not engaged in academic pursuits.
Key elements in the approximately 1,800-square-foot student life component will include a fitness room, aerobics, martial arts, human performance testing, an Olympic-size swimming pool, an open covered deck, classrooms, lockers, and shower and weight room facilities along with a poolside juice bar or indoor café where students can dine and congregate.
The project was designed by Design Partners and is being built by Isemoto Contracting. Construction is expected to be completed in Fall 2007. The Center is tentatively set to open in January 2008.