$40 million construction begins for Newman Hall

By Emily Sokolik

Monsignor Edward Duncan’s long-time dream was realized at the Newman Hall ground-breaking Saturday morning.

The $40 million expansion project to begin this month is an endeavor Duncan has anticipated since he became chaplain of the Catholic student center and residence hall fifty-four years ago.

“(Duncan) had a vision that one day we could be able to expand our program,” said Gregory Ketcham, current director and chaplain of the Newman Center, 604 E. Armory Ave. “He (is) so happy and pleased to be present among us, to see that dream come true.”

Duncan, along with students, alumni and community members, attended the ground-breaking to show support for the upcoming building project. The ceremony and project blessing was held on the ground where the Newman Hall addition, adjacent to the current building, will be erected.

The construction is set to take place in two phases, beginning with a 127,000 square-foot addition to the current Newman Residence Hall. The new facility will include a fitness center, convenience store and laundry room, expected to open in the fall of 2008. Phase two of the expansion project is a renovation of the existing Newman Hall, including room reconfigurations, remodeling of the library and a new auditorium.

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“It’s going to be a very modern, up-to-date facility,” said Don Brennan, vice-president of River City Construction, the firm heading the expansion project. “We’re very excited to be a part of this. There’s a lot of personal pride from the company.”

Ketcham said funding for the venture will come from student fees to be paid during the next thirty years, as well as contributions from donors.

The project is important for keeping pace with the growing number of Catholics at the University and helping these students to better connect with their faith, Ketcham said.

“We have 10 to 12,000 Catholic students on campus and we minister in very profound ways to these young people,” he said. “St. John’s Catholic Newman Center is seen as the model for all other Newman Centers in the country and we are just very excited to see the future of … Newman Center continue on.”

The present Newman Center building was erected seventy years ago and since then, the University’s Catholic population has grown exponentially. As a result, not all students can be accommodated at the current building.

“The (new facility) is going to be totally geared toward students, not only those who live at Newman, but other Catholic students that can come and partake in activities and be more involved in the community,” said Morgan Zeeb, junior in AHS and assistant resident advisor at Newman Hall. “It’s really hard for Catholic students now who don’t live at Newman to get involved because right now we’re just limited with space.”

When the entire project is completed, living space will be available for an additional 260 students. Ann Marie Tschanz, senior in Nursing and head resident advisor, said she is glad the expansion project will welcome a greater number of Catholic students.

“Newman’s a home to me,” she said. “It’s going to provide amazing places for all the Catholic students on campus to have a place to come and call their own.”