Building the Future
A period of rapid expansion transforms the campus
to reflect ECU's mission as a major research universityBy Steve Tuttle
Photos by Forrest Croce
The East Carolina University campus hasn’t changed in the mind’s eye of most alumni, remembered just as it looked during senior year. But in fact the campus has grown by leaps and bounds recently as enrollment and academic programs have surged, swelling by about 5,000 students in just the last five years.
As the fastest-growing campus in the UNC System, ECU has had to race just to keep up with current growth that has made it the third-largest campus in the system with about 23,200 students as of the fall semester. At the same time, officials are planning for another wave of growth expected over the next few years when additional university facilities will be needed.
The university’s latest period of expansion has seen six new buildings constructed or renovated since 2000 at a cost of more than $200 million, including expenditures of $57 million last fiscal year, a record. Several other projects remain under construction or on the drawing board whose cost will raise the total tab for the current building boom to about $300 million. The projects, mostly funded by state higher education bond money, have swelled the main campus to more than 3.5 million square feet of academic, research and residential space in 124 buildings. Of the $3.1 billion in bonds for UNC System campuses and the state community colleges approved by North Carolina voters in 2000, $190 million went to East Carolina, and it’s mostly been spent. The higher education bond issue was the largest in the history of the United States and was approved by voters in all 100 counties.
Most of the improvements around campus are readily visible but some are unseen, hidden in the wiring of existing buildings and in underground utility vaults. About $3.6 million has been spent on technology upgrades for web-based and other computer-assisted modes of instruction in Austin, Brewster, Rawl, Rivers, Speight and the General Classroom Building. ECU is the largest provider of online and distance education in the UNC System. In addition, the basic infrastructure of the campus – electrical wiring, heating and cooling – has benefited from $16.3 million in improvements, mainly to meet the demands of the growing student body.
According to Chancellor Steve Ballard, the campus construction boom is “unprecedented . . . allowing East Carolina to have facilities we need for the kind of significant work we are doing and intend to do. We’re building the future as we go.”
Perhaps the most visible change on campus has been construction of the new Science and Technology Building (right
). The 273,000-square-foot brick and glass structure is home to a number of high-tech programs, including the Department of Chemistry that for decades attempted to make do in the historic Flanagan Building. Sci-Tech, as it’s known, opened in the fall of 2003 at the corner of Tenth Street and Fountain Drive. Its $68 million cost was funded by state bond money. The facility provides modern laboratories for teaching and research, an expansive two-story construction bay complete with a robotic manufacturing installation, state-of-the-art classrooms as well as offices for the College of Technology and Computer Science and the Department of Chemistry. It’s now the largest building on the central campus.
Completion of Sci-Tech allowed the university to begin a wholesale renovation of the 1930s-era Flanagan Building, one of the oldest and most majestic structures on campus. At the end of a two-year, $13.8 million project, Flanagan reopened in January 2005. It now houses the departments of anthropology, geology and science and math education. The Ph.D. program in Coastal Resources Management and the Institute for Coastal and Marine Resources are also located in Flanagan. The structure provides 21 classrooms and laboratories and 70 offices surrounding a beautifully-restored open-air central courtyard.
Ask any student on campus today to name the one new building that’s dearest to their hearts – or at least their stomachs -- and they likely will mention the new West End Dining Hall. Anchoring the northwest corner of the central campus, the 600-seat dining hall, which opened spring semester of 2004, resembles the food court at a major mall. Diners can choose from several themed serving stations ranging from traditional cafeteria fare to Italian, Mongolian, barbecue and a rotisserie. Or they can munch their way through a long salad bar.
Erected at a cost of $12.7 million and paid for through student fees, the dining hall replaces the cafeteria facilities in Mendenhall Student Center. A large plaza fronts the dining hall and visually ties it to the adjacent Greene, White, Clement and Fletcher residence halls. The facility also contains a convenience store and a Subway restaurant.
The old cafeteria in Mendenhall has been converted to a quick-food restaurant called Destination 360 serving sandwiches, pizza and the like. Mendenhall also now offers a specialty coffee shop.
On the northeast corner of campus, the Rivers Building has undergone an $11.9 million renovation and expansion providing much-needed classroom and faculty office space for the College of Human Ecology and the School of Nursing. The 38,000-square-foot addition and renovation, which was completed in September 2004, was funded with bond money. The project included a three-story, 35,000-square-foot addition and renovation of 4,000 square feet in the original structure.
Clark-LeClair Stadium, the 3,000-seat baseball facility that opened for the 2005 season, has raised expectations that ECU will soon host NCAA regional and super-regional baseball tournaments leading up to the College World Series. The $11 million cost of the stadium was raised from donors, including about $9 million through the ECU Educational Foundation, better known as the Pirate Club.
Just beyond the end zone of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, the 52,475-square-foot Murphy Center (left
) houses the strength and conditioning facilities for the ECU athletics program. Built at a cost of about $13 million, the Murphy Center also contains banquet rooms, sport memorabilia and an academic enhancement center. The center, which opened in the fall of 2002, is named in honor of Pete and Lynn Murphy of Rose Hill, N.C.
A 17,000-square-foot expansion of the Fletcher School of Music on the southwest corner of campus is scheduled for completion this summer. It will provide badly needed rehearsal and practice space as well as an expanded recital hall. The renovated Fletcher will offer three large rehearsal rooms, seven general classrooms, a recording studio, a keyboard laboratory, a computer/keyboard laboratory, an electronic music studio, a music library, administrative offices, 48 faculty offices/studios, 50 practice rooms, 23 graduate assistant offices, and larger storage areas.
Also expected to open this spring is the $55 million health sciences complex, which will house the School of Allied Health Sciences, the School of Nursing and the Laupus Health Sciences Library. As-yet unnamed, the 300,000-square-foot facility, dubbed the “learning village,” sits on a 25-acre site adjacent to the Brody School of Medicine. It will bring the university’s Health Sciences Division units together in one location and provide the infrastructure and facilities for a true academic medical center. If the facility were a separate institution it would be the 12th largest campus in the UNC system. Money from the higher education bonds is paying for the construction. The Belk Building, which has housed many of the departments that will move to the Allied Health facility once it is completed, will be converted to general classroom use.
Over on College Hill, a new $31.5 million, 488-bed residence hall is expected to open for the 2006 fall semester. Going up beside Todd Dining Hall, the residence hall is configured in four-person suites. Each suite offers two bedrooms, two private baths, a kitchenette, data ports and cable in the living room and noise resistant walls and floors. On each floor will be a full kitchen, as well as recycling and laundry facilities. East Carolina’s 15 residence halls already house more than 5,100.
As those facilities near completion, the university is gearing up to begin other projects. The largest of those on the central campus is the planned $35 million renovation and expansion of Mendenhall Student Center and the adjacent Ledonia Wright Cultural Center. That project is expected to begin in April 2007 and be completed three years later.
East Carolina is developing several sports fields on a 129-acre site just north of the city at the intersection of Greenville Boulevard and U.S. 264. The $6 million project, scheduled for completion in the summer of 2007, includes fields for intramurals and club sports, a large lake for boating and swimming, roadways, infrastructure, parking and support facilities.
On the medical campus, the university expects to break ground soon on a new Cardiovascular Institute. This $60 million project will be the home of the new cross-disciplinary effort aimed at reducing the incidence of cardiovascular disease in eastern North Carolina. At 180,000 square feet, the Institute will complement a new $170 million cardiovascular bed tower planned at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, the teaching hospital of the Brody School of Medicine.
Also on the drawing board is a new facility to replace the Family Medicine Center. The $30 million facility, which will be situated next to the Cardiovascular institute, will encompass about 90,000 square feet. Nearby, the university plans to erect a $2.5 million Geriatrics Center, a 10,000-square-foot clinic with exam rooms, support spaces, offices, patient services and building support spaces.
What’s next? Officials say campus growth and renovation will continue as ECU prepares for the critical decade ahead. One major expansion that the Board of Trustees is exploring is a new dental school. There currently is only one in the state, at UNC Chapel Hill.ECU at a GlanceStudent Body
ECU is the third-largest campus in the UNC System in terms of enrollment at more than 23,000. That compares with 26,900 students at UNC Chapel Hill and 30,000 at N.C. State. UNC Charlotte is fourth largest with 20,000 students and UNC Greensboro is fifth with 15,300 students.Student Demographics
90% are full-time students, 59% are female, 79% are white, 15% are from out of state.Tuition
In-state, $13,294; out-of-state, $23,508. Costs include tuition, fees, books, dorm room and full meal plan.Main Campus
Spreads across 520 acres containing more than 3.5 million square feet of academic, research, and residential space in 124 buildings.Health Sciences Campus
The Brody School of Medicine covers about 205 acres with nearly 750,000 square feet of academic and research space in 39 buildings.West Research Campus
About 650 acres with an administrative and several support buildings that house the North Carolina Institute for Health and Safety in Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.Libraries
Joyner Library now holds nearly 1.2 million bound volumes, 2.4 million pieces of microform, 530,000 government documents, more than 2,900 periodical subscriptions, and more than 12,000 journals in electronic form. The Music Library, a branch of Joyner, houses more than 62,500 items. The Laupus Library has 155,616 bound volumes, 29,147 microform volumes, and about 1,500 serial titles.Note: All statistics are for the 2004-05 school year. Return to magazine index