North Texas Daily

UNT’s Visitor Center to cost nearly $10 million

UNT’s Visitor Center to cost nearly $10 million

February 21
19:31 2018

UNT’s new Visitor Center will cost $9.6 million, according to documents obtained through a public information request. The Visitor Center is intended for people wishing to tour or learn about UNT.

The Visitor Center is part of the New Residence Hall Project that was commissioned last summer, which includes a 500-bed residence hall.

UNT spokesperson Kelley Reese shed some light on why UNT is spending this amount to benefit students who do not attend the university.

“As a university, we have a need to balance and work on multiple demands simultaneously,” Reese said. “This is not a case where one item is a greater priority, rather that the solutions are different. So, while we are pursuing an answer to the question of recruitment and visitor experience, we are also working on solutions for increased student housing, dining, parking and academic and research space needs.”

Education sophomore Gaby Lara said she thinks the money being spent on the Visitor Center could have been better spent elsewhere.

“I pay so much toward tuition and stuff and for my parking pass and I still have to pay more if I want to park somewhere that’s conveniently close to my class,” Lara said. “I know they’re trying to reel people in to stay here but I just feel like the money could have been put elsewhere because we know that money is coming from, essentially, our tuition. It could be put elsewhere to where it would be more beneficial to the people who are already here instead of prospective students.”

The New Residence Hall Project will cost nearly $60 million

The New Residence Hall Project is ongoing and is set to be completed by 2020. Initially proposed as a two phase project with a budget of over $100 million, the university will seek to cancel phase two at the Board of Regents meeting this week, Reese said.

The New Residence Hall Project would then have just one phase involving completing the residence hall and the Visitor Center for $58.9 million.

A document from the university’s Finance and Facilities Committee meeting on  July 24, 2017, includes an amendment which states the intention to “increase the project budget for New Residence Hall Phase one by $9.6 million to incorporate the design and construction of a campus tour center for prospective students.”

“The new visitors center is being built with flexibility in mind so that the space will be able to serve multiple purposes,” Reese said. “Certainly, one of its main functions will be to serve as a gateway to our campus for prospective students and their families, as well as any other individual who may be interested in learning more about what makes UNT unique and a leader in North Texas.”

The Visitor Center will include mock bedrooms and a ‘huddle room’

UNT System spokesperson Paul Corliss provided some detail as to what the Visitor Center will entail.

“The layout of the building will organize tour center functions and some housing functions on the first floor, with the main housing administration functions on the second floor,” Corliss said. “The building will contain a presentation room, welcome area, huddle room [for families and advisors to meet], mock bedroom and staff offices.”

Corliss said the Visitor Center will be part of a 26,000 gross square-foot Visitor, Housing and Dining Administration building and will be located between the new residence hall and Kerr Hall.

Currently, UNT uses the Eagle Student Services Center (ESSC) to conduct campus tours. Reese said that while the ESSC is a key building for UNT’s enrolled students, it does not have enough space to sufficiently host prospective students and their families as interest grows in the university.

Two-and-a-half Highland Garages could be constructed for the same price

A 2014 Center for Profitable Agriculture document from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture concludes that a single square acre (43,560-square-feet) of land can hold approximately 162 angled parking spaces. By this estimate, about 90 parking spaces could fit in the area the Visitor Center will occupy, if arranged as a single-level parking lot.

By contrast, the seven-floor Highland Street Parking Garage contains 950 parking spaces. The garage cost about $20 million to construct, according to documents from a 2009 Board of Regents meeting. Adjusted for inflation, it would cost just under $23.5 million in 2017. 

The university could not provide documents containing costs for constructing the parking lots behind Maple Hall and across from Rawlins Hall.

“Parking is always a priority,” Reese said. “The university always seeks to balance its parking needs with the need to accommodate its growth and demand for educational and student life facilities.”

Featured Image: File

About Author

Sean Riedel

Sean Riedel

Sean Riedel was the news editor at the North Texas Daily from August 2018 to May 2019, and previously served as a staff writer from June 2017 to August 2018.

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