Green Family Donation Funds More Campus Renovations

Construction crews and campus operations employees stayed busy this summer razing, replacing and renovating parts of nearly every major building on campus, thanks to another $10 million gift from the Green family of Oklahoma City.

This marks the fourth consecutive year the ORU Board of Trustees chairman and his family’s charitable foundation have given $10 million each summer for capital improvements. This year’s gift also includes an additional $10 million for renovating CityPlex Towers, which are owned by the university. ORU generates revenue through leasing offices throughout the 110 floors of combined space in the 60-, 30- and 20-story buildings immediately south of campus on 81st Street.

This summer’s combined $20 million in grants from the Green family will cover work that already has been completed this summer as well as construction projects that will continue through the fall and into the spring. Rehabbing the 30-year-old CityPlex Towers will take another 18 months to finish.

Tim Philley, ORU’s chief operations officer, and George Perkins, director of campus grounds and maintenance, recently sat down with the Oracle to offer an overview of how ORU’s campus is being updated.

Construction Updates

Armand Hammer Alumni Student Center: Construction remains on schedule for a planned opening in January, Philley says. He estimates work is about 70 percent complete. This marks the first entirely new building on campus in several decades. Ground was broken last January, and most of the steel was in place by the time students left for this summer’s break. “They’re buttoning up the outside of it,” Perkins says of the building, with mechanical things in place, such as plumbing and electrical systems. Crews are starting to erect drywall inside. Parking in Lower Lot will continue to be restricted until the project is completed. Philley says the university has raised $11 million for the building, which includes $8.5 million for construction and the rest for furnishing it with high-tech equipment to entertain students. Perkins points out that the center will feature “the largest-screen television in the state of Oklahoma.” The Hammer family of Los Angeles and the Cardone family of Philadelphia gave the largest financial gifts toward the project, which will be built debt free.

Visitor Information Center: While the Praying Hands and Avenue of Flags serve as a marquee entrance to the university on Lewis Avenue, most traffic enters and exits the campus via 81st Street, according to Philley. That’s why a security office and information center has been installed at the corner of University and Evelyn Roberts drives in Parking Lot E. Philley says the small center serves three purposes: (1) Provide maps and directions to campus visitors, (2) Better secure the center of campus at night, and (3) Increase security for the Mabee Center parking lot. A security guard or campus worker will be stationed inside the center during the day and at night. Motorists will not be required to stop except during special events, when parking is restricted. He adds that the gates are not directly tied to students’ 1:30 a.m. nightly curfew. A security guard will be able to monitor any unauthorized motorists trying to access the main part of campus during those few restricted hours. Security of the commuter parking lot also will be enhanced by the addition of four more video cameras, which Philley says should reduce the number of vehicle break-ins experienced in recent years. Also, the most famous speed bump on campus, known affectionately among students as “Mount Oral,” has been removed from the area where motorists enter the commuter lot off University Drive.

Braxton Dormitory: It’s gone! The only thing left standing of Braxton is the original lobby. Philley says it contains about 4,000 square feet of space, which will be used to store theater props and equipment. Until now, those things were stored in CityPlex Towers, making it cumbersome to transport them back and forth to Howard Auditorium for theater productions.

Howard Auditorium: Theater lovers rejoice! The gold dimpled dome is getting a major overhaul inside, most noticeably a “top of the line” sound system. The renovation also includes modernizing the ticket booths, bathrooms and lighting. Philley says the work is still under way and will be finished midway through the fall semester, in time for the first stage production of the 2012-13 season. The work will total almost $500,000, with half of that being invested in the sound system alone.