By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
The university’s $16 million performing arts center is expected to be complete by the end of this month, with the exception of carpet-laying and some minor additions, university officials say.
The completion of Williams Performing Arts Center, which was begun May 1, 2001, means more office space for other departments and programs on campus as the Music and Theatre departments vacate Burford Music Center, the McKinzie Hall basement and parts of Sewell Theatre.
One of the first and most immediate benefactors of the 92,000-square-foot center is the Department of Education, which will take over Burford after the building is remodeled and renamed.
“Our whole department is excited about this,” said department Chair Pat Simpson. She added that the Burford completion date isn’t yet known, but that “we’d love for it to be summer.”
Education will leave its current home on the first floor of Chambers Hall, leaving English and Psychology to settle the debate over who may claim the vacant space through their occasional croquet matches.
The matches may be unnecessary for that, however, said English Department Chair Nancy Shankle, citing Colleen Durrington, dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences, as having shown her plans that allowed both departments to comfortably inhabit the first floor.
The completion of Williams, which is the first major academic building since the Biblical Studies Building was finished in 1989, will be the final touch on the university’s most lucrative fund-raising campaign to date.
The To Lead and To Serve Campaign ended on the last day of 2000 and raised more than $114 million. The highlight of the campaign was a $10 million donation from J. McDonald Williams, ACU alumnus and Dallas civic leader, to help build the center.
The center will contain two theaters, recital halls, practice rooms, office space for both departments, several classrooms and storage space. Music will move into the building entirely, but Theatre will continue to use Sewell for practice, set-building and dinner theatres and will still stage the Homecoming Musical at the Abilene Civic Center.
Along with Burford, the Music Department has been using the McKinzie basement as a storage and practice area.
The freed space there-which has housed the KACU broadcast studios, the Optimist newsroom, Abilene Christian Schools classrooms, a laundromat and the offices for the Department of Sociology and Social Work at one time or another-could be used to house Campus Life offices, which currently occupy part of McKinzie’s ground floor.
Kevin Watson, chief administrative services officer, said classes would be ready to begin in the center when the spring semester opens Jan. 13.