by Alistair Highet
When Fairfield’s Board of Trustees unanimously adopted its new strategic plan, Fairfield 2020: The Way Forward, in 2015, it was clear that exciting changes were on the horizon. The plan calls for bold initiatives across every facet of the University operations, including: growth and diversification of revenue streams, speed and innovation in operations, academics and student support, new academic programs, streamlined decision making, more geographic, racial and economic diversity among students, expanded community partnerships and a revised curriculum.
It was apparent at that time that Fairfield needed a comprehensive plan for the campus to ensure its physical and technological infrastructure supported and integrated with those initiatives. A multi-phased Master Plan presented to and approved by the Board of Trustees in 2016 did just that. It tied together the physical needs of the campus with the University’s fundraising and bonding capabilities so that the resulting plan preserved critical financial flexibility while delivering exciting new state-of-the-art living, learning and dining spaces to students.
The plan built upon significant enhancements made recently to athletics facilities — such as the new Rafferty Stadium, a refreshed baseball diamond, and significant renovations to the RecPlex — and adds completely updated technologies in all classrooms, enhanced wireless broadband across campus, new dining and gathering spaces, a new state-of-the-art health science facility and new and renovated living space in the Quad area.
Follow-up phases will provide for a brand new home for the Dolan School of Business, air-conditioning of the residences in the Quad area, major renovations to McAuliffe Hall at the entry to the University campus and a rebuild of the aging townhouse residential complex.
The final phase of the Master Plan envisions, too, the demolition and rebuild of Alumni Hall to provide a campus gathering space that would seat 3,500-4,500.
“The Master Plan will transform our campus and bring exciting new living, learning and dining spaces to our students for years to come,” said Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Kevin P. Lawlor ‘79, P’19,’17. “By carefully planning and integrating the many strategic initiatives embedded in Fairfield 2020, we are able to build a bridge to the future and ensure that we are competitive, financially stable and poised for an exciting future. This is not a far-off vision,” Lawlor continued. “We opened doors to the RecPlex in early September and have steel in the ground for our new Health Sciences facility now.”
Based on the architectural renderings that have been developed, the campus will have a more cohesive, contemporary and energetic quality. The design thrust has been driven by a desire to enhance flow, create open spaces and take advantage of the existing footprint of University buildings, while increasing capacity for classroom and office space.
Phase one of the plan is budgeted at $100 million, with some contingencies. The building projects will be financed through a combination of gifts from Fairfield benefactors and alumni, budget surplus and bonded debt.
“We were very fortunate. When we went to market for our bonds we were in the midst of the lowest interest rates in 15 years,” said Lawlor. “So we locked in very advantageous rates.”
In addition to the building projects, phase one includes work to extend the wireless infrastructure across campus, expansions and renovations to the lab spaces in Bannow Science Center, renovations in the library and other deferred maintenance projects.
All of the major construction projects have been staggered, in terms of the start time and completion, to minimize disruptions to University operations. Some are under construction or near completion, others are underway, and others remain in the design phase. But, together they paint a picture of a dynamic new campus.
The Center for Nursing and Health Sciences
Completion: Fall 2017
Currently under construction, the new center broke ground this spring. Rising to four floors, it will expand the University’s current facility to over 70,000 square feet — about four times the size of the previous facility, with open collaborative areas, state-of-the art simulation equipment and improved clinical learning environments. It will be home to the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies. “This building will provide the necessary structure to facilitate excellent academics and ensure that our graduates will continue to lead healthcare innovations through the decades to come,” said Meredith Kazer, PhD, APRN, dean of the Egan School.
Completion: Fall 2017
Preliminary work is already underway on a new parking garage to be placed on the footprint of the existing parking lot at the Kelley Center. The lot, which will be two stories, has been designed with a view to keep the amount of ambient light low, and to keep the garage’s profile at the same height as the Kelley Center so that it will fit into the landscape. The lot will increase parking at the Kelley Center from 137 to 380 spaces. It will serve as an entranceway for prospective students and their families on their way to the Admission Offices in the Kelley Center, and it is also close to the new Rafferty Stadium and other athletics facilities.
The New Residence Hall
Possible Occupancy: August 2018
There are a number of factors driving the demand for more residence space, with an anticipated need of about 350 new beds overall in the coming years, partly driven by an increase in the projected undergraduate population to 4,000. At the same time, there is a desire to renovate some of the existing residence halls so that they contain more meeting spaces and community areas, thus reducing the capacity in some buildings.
The new residence hall is projected for the Quad area, and will accommodate 220 freshmen and sophomores. It features an atrium, more attractive open meeting spaces and classroom spaces.
Barone Campus Center Expansion
Completion: Fall 2018
The Barone Campus Center will get a facelift and an upgrade with an expansion that will feature a significantly expanded dining area for students on the top floors, as well as a faculty dining room. What is currently the open patio area and walkway that faces up the hill towards Canisius, will be partially enclosed, creating a light-filled atrium space on the ground floor, which may have a new coffee shop. This will also increase the capacity of the Oak Room, the meeting room on the ground floor. A movable barrier will separate the atrium from the Oak Room, so that the entire area can be opened up for receptions and meetings. The move is necessary because the current dining area is too small during peak hours. Also, the renovation will allow for a more pleasant and engaging dining experience, with food stations where fresh, farm-to-table meals are prepared.
“The current footprint and design for Barone dining has been pretty much the same since I was an undergraduate student in the mid-sixties. So, you can understand why I’m euphoric about the upgrade!” said Jim Fitzpatrick ’70, MA’72, P’08, assistant vice president of Administration and Student Affairs.
Alumni Diamond Renovation
Completion: 2017 Season
While not technically part of the Master Plan, Alumni Diamond where the 2016 MAAC Champion Fairfield Stags play, has needed an upgrade for some time. Work on that project is currently underway, thanks to funding from alumni, parents and benefactors. The renovations feature a new backstop with a total seating capacity of 350, including 80 chair-back seats behind home plate and a modern backstop netting system for improved sightlines. Each dugout will be renovated to include a modern field-level look as well as a tiered seating system for players and coaches. A press box and sound system will overlook the field from behind home plate. New fencing and enhancements to the scoreboard will also be featured.
“We have wonderful alumni and benefactors who know how important it is to support Fairfield at this critical time, and that has allowed us to really propel the University forward,” said Wally Halas, vice president for University Advancement. “We’ll need more support to see that the Master Plan is completed, and I think when our alumni see what we have planned, they will rise to the challenge.”
and on the horizon
While the projects above are included in the first phase of the Master Plan, there are other exciting projects in the design phase that are awaiting approval or funding, and are likely to be part of the landscape in the not-too-distant future.
Campus projects proposed for future phases of the Master Plan are a part of what will be a new facility on the footprint of what is currently Alumni Hall. The plans call for creating an indoor athletics and events space that would seat 3,500, and as many as 4,500 for commencement exercises. The 84,000-square-foot facility would feature boxes for spectators, a modernist exterior, integrating it with the adjoining RecPlex, and other modern amenities. If built, it would be the home of Stags basketball and other sports — bringing the teams back to campus.
Finally, plans are being discussed to significantly expand the current Dolan School of Business facility. The expansion would significantly redesign the current building to add additional office, classroom and circulation space and add a second level. It is part of a greater plan to raise the school’s profile — already one of the highest-ranked business schools in the country — and further position the school as a destination of choice for students looking for a business degree steeped in Jesuit values.