After years of planning, adjustments to the budget and a developer swap, Dodge City Community College will break ground on its extensible student activities dome on Sept. 5.
The construction of the central dome is expected to be completed before April 2016, a requirement of a $500,000 FEMA grant that is partially funding the roughly $8.4 million project. The bottom line could change as bids for the construction come in, Brian Marshall of Building Solutions said.
'We are basically finished with the building around February of 2016,' Marshall told the DCCC Board of Trustees. 'The last thing that happens in the sports courts come in — that wood has to be acclimated — and they put that in, then the bleacher guys come in and then we hang all the goals and hang all the pads and the acoustical panels.'
Building Solutions designed the activities center and will manage the construction.
About 30 percent of the design and engineering work needs to be completed, Marshall said, but work can start next Tuesday on items that don't require the final approval from FEMA or a building permit, like site preparation.
The groundbreaking ceremony, starting at 11 a.m. at the college, will kick off the DCCC Foundation’s major push for donors, foundation director Roger Profitt said. A bond issuance of $5.5 million will pay for the other roughly 90 percent of the cost of building the dome portion of the project. Private donations will be used to construct the ring around the dome, Proffitt said, and if enough is collected, will pay into the bonded portion.
“We want an event to kick off so we can start going and getting aggressive with fundraising,” Proffitt said. Potential donors have been hesitant because of uncertainty over whether the dome would ever be built, he said earlier.
So far, the Foundation has raised roughly $1 million, $900,000 in estate plans that would pay out over 10 years when the estate plan is activated, but that guarantee can be financialized, he said.
“The next step is we’d obviously break ground and start pouring concrete when we get FEMA approval,” Marshall said.
“We need to get started,” Proffitt said. “We have to do the engineering, send it to FEMAandFEMAapprovesit and we don’t know how long that will take. That might be the only holdup. We can’t do anything but move dirt until we get FEMA approval.”
The design includes a 170-foot-diameter concrete dome similar to the ones in Kinsley and Fowler, surrounded by an incomplete ring comprising 14,500 square feet for a health clinic, student activity areas, aerobics rooms, offices and lockers.
Athletics Director Casey Malek said the building will alleviate some of the scheduling and location difficulties for the college’s sports teams. “Since we’re looking at many playing eight basketball games in our gym next year, oh yeah, it’s a God send.”
Trustee Don Webb asked if the facility was an activities center or an athletics center, a question that has lingered through the drawnout process. The question was deferred to Malek, who said that on a college campus, activities are physical activities.
“If you go in the gym on a Friday night, you’ve got 100 students shooting at two basketball hoops,” Malek said.
The DCCC board approved the selling of bonds, approving the dome portion, Tuesday, at its regularly scheduled meeting by a vote of 4-2, with Trustees Jason Joy and Don Webb dissenting.
Joy argued that FEMA is providing only 4 percent of the total cost of the building and questioned the wisdom of building a tornado shelter dome if the college is primarily interested in building an indoor sports and student activities arena.
“Do we need a facility like this? Yes, but not at this expense,” Joy said.
Board Chairman Merrill Conant said the FEMA money is not a majority of required funding, but it’s also “not something to sneeze at.”
Joy also asked what would happen if the foundation is unable to wrangle up the roughly $2.5 million desired to complete the outside ring. The short answer given by Marshall and DCCC Finance Director Vada Herman: as the dome will be a self-contained, fully-functional structure, the ring can come later if necessary.
“I think this board all along thought this was a need for this college and if the dome works as well as any other facility in meeting those needs … and I’m not hearing anything that tells us it’s a negative as far as the design and usefulness of the structure,” Conant said.
Trustee Jeremy Presley said he, like the City of Dodge City that attached a good-faith clause regarding the merger before allowing DCCC to use the special bonds, said the dome and the proposed merger with Fort Hays State University are related.
He called for greater consensus from the board, especially considering statements made by board members in opposition to broad points of the merger.
“I don’t think you can talk about these two issues separately, not when we’re talking about spending this amount of money,” Presley said. Both the merger and the dome play into growing the Dodge City area economy.
“I want to see we’re growing our economy and that comes with the progression of the other things we’re discussing,” he said, referring to the merger. “I have a lot of concerns because there are a lot of people that want to stand behind the dome but don’t want to stand behind” the merger.
Conant agreed: “I think we need to continue to move forward with all these things. They connect. We can’t really separate them very easily.”