The current construction at BYU is more than an inconvenience to the students and faculty; it’s changing the character of the campus.
“I always looked forward to going to BYU as a child, but nothing is unique now. I miss the flavor of the old Cougareat with its booths and red velvet lounge,” says Anne Dee Knight, a graduate student in English from Provo.
Knight said she remembers spending time as a child at the old Wilkinson Student Center and imagining what it would be like to attend the university in the future. Due to all of the construction, her experience at BYU has been much different.
In the past ten years, the school has worked on almost 100 major construction projects costing anywhere from $300,000 to several million dollars. They have also worked on about 1,200 smaller projects at a cost of $200,000 or less.
Despite the community’s attachments, the university has made alterations to accommodate a growing student body and obsolete facilities.
“Programs are always being phased in and out so we need to make changes to the campus,” says J. Michael Stratton, director of BYU Construction.
The current heavy construction at BYU is impossible to ignore.
A giant 40-foot deep hole in the center of campus marks the beginning of a five-level Joseph F. Smith Building, which will replace the Smith Family Living Center. The two-year project will accommodate the colleges of humanities, family, home and social sciences. Private donations will pay for the building.
The university has also started a year long project on a new $50 million Student Athletic Center and an indoor practice facility.
The buildings will house a student-athlete academic center, strength and conditioning centers, a nutrition center, training facilities, a hall of fame, an equipment room, locker rooms, conference rooms and offices.
Some graduates from BYU argue that the “BYU experience” constantly changes as a result of the construction.
Katelyn Handy, a 1998 BYU graduate from Seattle returned to BYU last fall and said that she didn’t recognize half of the campus.
“When I went to school, I had to suffer through all of the construction,” she said. “I didn’t get to see any of the benefits. I see the students benefiting from the changes today, but they are missing the flavor of the ’50s buildings I used as a student. It’s not the same experience.”
Gene Libutti, director of the Special Projects Planning Department, said, “We are providing the best environment possible.”
Libutti said the collegiate community takes for granted many of the improvements made to the campus. The Eyring Science Center, for example, needed to meet specific safety codes and receive mechanical and technological updates.
“Today, it’s in much better shape,” he said.
He also emphasized that the university must work within certain restraints.
“People come from other universities and wonder why we can’t make more changes to some of the buildings,” he said. “We are restrained mostly by our budget that comes mostly through private donations. We’ve done our best to make the building more aesthetically pleasing.”
Some people who have been around the university agree that the construction has improved the teaching and learning experience.
“They did a beautiful job of preserving what was needed to be preserved in the Eyring Science Center. It’s a tremendous boost to the facility,” said Larry Knight, who retired from the Physics Department last year after teaching at BYU for 27 years.
For some students, the construction goes unnoticed.
Bradley Burgoyne, a sophomore from Hawaii majoring in business said, “The school is always under construction, so I never really get too attached to anything because I know that it will be gone in a couple of years.”