New $1 million Student Center Approved

At a special meeting Tuesday morning, Salina Area Technical College’s Board of Trustees approved Ponton Construction’s bid of $1,075,000 to build a new student center.

Construction is expected to start soon and be completed by July 31, 2022, in time for the start of the 2022-23 school year.

Salina Tech president Greg Nichols said that “as the number of students at Salina Tech continues to grow, so does the need for those students to have a place to go during breaks between classes.”

The college previously had a location, called “The Flamingo Lounge,” in an addition on the west side of Building A, but that portion of the building was demolished as part of a major renovation project more than a decade ago.

“A student center is an important part of the college experience,” Nichols said.

When Nichols was named President of Salina Tech in 2016, the college was already considering an entryway to the west side of the building, to create a more direct path to Building B, but those plans were put on hold. Nichols said, “I wanted to get a better understanding of the financial situation here and the needs of the students and employees,” when he asked the board to delay the project.

Since then, however, enrollment has continued to grow, and is up nearly 50 percent in the past five years.

So those old plans were dusted off and updated, to include more than just an entryway, and the Salina Tech Foundation began fundraising for the project early in 2021.

The addition will include a student commons area, a campus bookstore, and a dining area with fresh vending options.

The student center alone was estimated at $700,000, with another $180,000 added to the project to replace the entire roof of Building A, and an estimated $50,000 in needed improvements to the building’s HVAC system, for a total of $930,000.

However, prices for building materials have continued to rise, and Nichols said he wasn’t completely surprised at the final bids.

“We knew material prices were rising and decided to go ahead and do this now rather than later,” Nichols said. “We also have the option to negotiate some cost savings in the building materials.”

Nichols said fund raising for the project is continuing, and that once construction begins it may encourage potential donors to contribute.

“We have raised a large part of the funds needed through the Salina Tech Foundation,” according to Executive Director Larry Pankratz, “but we still have a way to go.”

He added that while there are naming rights available for the entire project or for sections of it, lead donors so far have waived that option, leaving that option open to future donors.