Architectural phase approved for Littlejohn, WestZone upgrades

The future of Littlejohn Coliseum will be discussed in the Clemson Board of Trustees meeting.

Photo by Nathan Gray

The future of Littlejohn Coliseum will be discussed in the Clemson Board of Trustees meeting.

CLEMSON — Clemson University’s Board of Trustees voted Friday to go forward planning for new dorms and athletic facilities.

Athletic director Dan Radakovich’s proposal to renovate Littlejohn Coliseum was approved for the architectural phase. The trustees also voted to move forward with proposals for upgrades to Memorial Stadium and Kingsmore stadium.

Radakovich has talked of eliminating about 1,500 seats and opening up the outer concourse to the seating area and playing floor. An exterior facelift and improved training facilities for the men’s and women’s basketball teams are also likely.

Cutting the number of seats available to visiting teams’ fans might create a more Tiger-friendly vibe at Littlejohn, according to Radakovich.

Reducing seating would, “allow us to have a little more of a supply-and-demand issue where it applies to basketball … 8,500 seats might allow us to have a better home court advantage,” said Radakovich.

Trustee Bill Hendrix told colleagues that Radakovich would present the board with “small, medium and large” options for Littlejohn, just in case trustees ultimately decide against the estimated $60 million to $80 million price tag currently placed on the renovations.

The trustees approved financing measures for several other projects, including the “Core Campus” plan to build a new dorm for students and athletes.

Core Campus, estimated to cost around $100 million, would replace Johnstone and Hartman halls and repurpose Vickery Hall from an athletic-support building to academic uses. The new building would also house academic support for university athletes.

Bond financing for the $212 million Douthit Hills retail/dormitory project, to be located near Clemson House, was approved by the board. Douthit Hills will house over 1,600 Bridge to Clemson students and upperclassmen, as well as street-level retailing and a welcome center for the eastside of the campus.

All of the bond issues and new building are meant to take advantage of low interest rates and replace antiquated campus housing, according to Clemson Vice President Brett Dalton, who oversees the university’s finances. He said the construction bonds have to be repaid with housing and athletic revenues and would not touch state tax dollars.

Dalton said Clemson University’s total debt load adds up to just 12 percent of its current assets, with just the athletic department carrying just $24 million of the $200 million debt ceiling imposed by state law.

“Only 20-25 percent of our debt capacity has been utilized,” Dalton told trustees. “Has Clemson been irresponsible with debt? Yes, we haven’t borrowed enough … we missed on historically low interest rates to do work that will be necessary.”

Dalton’s comments, as well as remarks made later by new President Jim Clements, appeared to be aimed at state Rep. Brian White of Anderson. The House Ways and Means chairman has repeatedly called for Clemson and other state universities to open up their books and streamline their expenses.

Clements cited recent findings compiled by the university’s Strom Thurmond Institute that tout Clemson’s net value to taxpayers.

In 2013, Clements said, the university’s programs and research generated $1.9 billion, 25,000 jobs and $1 billion in disposal income to the state, plus another $128 million for local governments.

“We’re a net funder of local and state government, and those are conservative estimates,” said Clements, who took over Clemson in January.

Clements also told the board that a national search would be launched soon to find a new provost. Nadim Aziz has served on interim basis since Doris Helms retired last summer.

The university will also need to find a new vice president for economic development to replace John Kelly, who is leaving to become president of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

“We need to continue Clemson’s national reputation by hiring some high-caliber leaders,” Clements said.

On a lighter note, Clements told the board he and his family are getting settled in at the university. They are staying in an apartment on top of the Clemson House dormitory while the official president’s home is being renovated.

“I’ve had some interesting conversations with students late at night, especially in the elevator when I am taking the dogs out for a last walk,” Clements quipped.

In other business:

The board of trustees is expected to address the proposed universitywide tobacco ban when it meets in April. University staff and undergraduate groups have voted against such a ban; the graduate student government supports it and the faculty senate has not voted on the matter.

Over 5,000 acceptance letters will be sent out Feb. 14 for the 2014-15 year. That number includes transfer students, incoming freshmen and Bridge to Clemson students.

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Comments » 1

Tigers2007 writes:

I think you mean Harcombe Dining Hall, there is no Hartman.

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