McKee Gymnasium will be replaced with a STEM-focused new building

MU is requesting $16.8 million in funds from the state to carry out this project and will add another $4.2 million from a separate funding source.
McKee Gymnasium stands along Hitt Street on Mar. 21. The building, built in 1922, faces demolition in order to make space for new STEM-focused facilities.

In a UM System Board of Curators meeting in January 2014, McKee Gymnasium was brought up in conversation for a proposed renovation projected to cost $15 million. At the time, the building held a Facilities Conditions Needs Index score of 0.8, meaning that the university determined 80 percent of the building required renovations.

More than two years later, the building still holds the same FCNI score of 0.8 and has not been renovated.

Currently, there are 40 facilities at MU with an FCNI greater than 0.4, which is the level MU indicates is necessary to constitute a building’s complete renovation, according to a UM System report. The FCNI is a calculation of the cost of maintenance, repairs and replacement of deficiencies of a given facility, divided by the overall cost of replacement of that facility.

Today, the new plan for McKee Gymnasium is to demolish the building entirely and erect a new facility that is dedicated toward STEM-focused labs and teaching facilities. The building, which completed construction in 1922 and was named after former MU head of women’s physical education Mary McKee, has been used primarily for holding classes in the nutrition and exercise physiology department.

McKee Gymnasium will be replaced on site with a new mixed-use building that will include interdisciplinary class labs, a student project lab, a nutrition and exercise physiology lab, two performing arts class labs, seminar rooms and faculty/staff work space. Currently, the facility accommodates approximately 700 students per week, but the new building will serve more.

Professor Dale Brigham, who currently works in McKee, said he hasn’t been told much about the plans for renovation, but the demolition is planned for summer 2017 if approved by the curators.

“I plan on staying put until the wrecking ball starts swinging,” Brigham said.

According to the 2016 Fiscal Year Capital Report for the UM System, the challenges to education McKee is facing are little to no renovation since original construction, small and overcrowded classroom environments, and building repairs that are too frequent and costly. The project to replace McKee, in conjunction with separate renovations to Lafferre, Waters, Stewart and Mumford halls, is 100 percent STEM-focused, according to the report.

The specific McKee demolition project would create 370 new jobs, produce $14.5 million in personal earnings and add $42.2 million to the local economy, according to the 2017 State Capital Appropriations Request by MU. MU is requesting $16.8 million in funds from the state to carry out this project, and will add another $4.2 million from a separate funding source.

This plan of renovations to all five of the buildings previously listed will create 1,930 new jobs, produce $77 million of personal earnings and add a $256 million increase in the area’s economy, according to the capital report.

“It is difficult to assess the economic impact until a budget is established,” Campus Facilities spokeswoman Karlan Seville said.

Although the specifics are far away from being concrete and confirmed, an increase in producing STEM graduates drives economic growth, according to a 2014 MU report on the case for increasing STEM programs. An average of 3.1 jobs are available per every one unemployed graduate with a STEM degree. Jobs that require STEM skills have stayed in demand despite economic downturn in past years, and MU plans on filling that demand one step at time by improving the university’s ability to give these programs adequate resources to produce more graduates, according to the report.

These renovations are also part of the MU stewardship model, which emphasizes full renovation or replacement of buildings to improve academic performance, improve building condition, and reduce the facility’s annual operating costs, Seville said.

Edited by Taylor Blatchford | tblatchford@themaneater.com

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