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The following article by Ron Wilshire talks about the university's renovation of Tippin Gymnasium and Becht Hall.  The article appeared in the Leader-Vindicator and on

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Following a planned $41.9 million renovation of Tippin Gymnasium and Natatorium and a $15.5 million renovation of Becht Hall the two buildings will be a shell of their former selves.  The approach to Becht will even be similar to that used for the White House.

The word renovation does not do justice to the work that is planned for the two buildings.  They will take on a whole new life with the scheduled work.  Add on a $4.2 million new recreation pool for the Student Recreation Center near Tippin and Clarion will witness its most extensive buildings spurt since the late 60s and early 70s, including the two student housing projects now underway on East Main Street.

The Tippin phase, funded by state capital appropriations, will include a new competitive natatorium attached building; conversion of the existing pool into an auxiliary gym; conversion of the existing gym into an arena with in-the-round seating; and major improvements in the façade, including the major use glass walls for exterior walls.

“I call it the Tippin transformation,” said Clarion University President Karen Whitney. “It really is going to be a transformed space that will much better serve intercollegiate athletics, our physical fitness, nutrition, academic interests, and really will enhance the ability to serve the overall University community and the greater community. Those are the great deliverables that will occur with this transformation.”

“Designing and constructing a brand-new natatorium, taking our current natatorium and decommissioning it, and creating a wonderful multi-use space, and then on top of that a recreational pool that connects with our wonderful rec center.  Really it transforms that area of campus and allows us to really provide (an) environment for competitive intercollegiate athletics as well as nutrition, health, and fitness creation in ways that will just be Eagletastic.”

The renovated Tippin will include the construction of 49,000 square feet, and the existing 112,000 square feet will be extensively renovated, according to Ric Taylor, director of facilities management.

“You won’t know Tippin is under the new façade we’re building,” said Taylor.  “We’re taking out the old brick exterior because right now Tippin is very massive looking on Greenville Avenue. One of the goals the president called for was to open it up to the community, meaning open up the views and provide more glazing and whatnot. Will be taking a lot out of the brick walls and replacing it with glass.”

With the addition of the new natatorium to the east side of the building facing toward the Gemmell Student Complex, a new main entrance and concourse will be included between the “old” and “new” Tippin.  The current main entrance on Payne Street will be an auxiliary entrance.  The new natatorium will also stretch over the current Page Street and the cul-de-sac will end at that point.

Whitney feels that the Tippin Transformation along with the additional recreational pool at the Student Recreation Center will be good for the community and the university.

“We do believe it will help in our ability to recruit top-notch athletes in the sports that will utilize those spaces such as wrestling, swimming, diving, volleyball, basketball, and indoor track,” said Whitney.  “I think it will definitely help with that. I think it will also demonstrate the university’s commitment to the community and building community through fitness and recreation. We will be offering memberships to the community for the recreation pool and look to invite members outside of the Clarion University family to the larger Clarion college town family and invite them to campus to enjoy these facilities.”

The existing gymnasium will be reconfigured into an arena and include in-the-round seating, and the first several rows will include bucket seating.

“The new Tippin will become much more transparent,” said Taylor. “You really won’t know that the old Tippin is under there.  Passersby on Greenville might see people practicing and exercising in the multipurpose practice gymnasium where we will fill in the existing pool. All of this is special glass that’s meant to resist any kind of issues experienced by the Grunewald Science Center and will include special shades that drop down by motor to avoid any sun issues.”

A new rear entrance for Tippin will also provide campus access into the new concourse flowing through the entire area, and walking into the building will also allow view of the arena on the right and the competitive swimming pool on the left, along with other public services and trophy displays.

The addition of the new natatorium will extend into Page Street ending the cul-de-sac at that point.  The new pool, also making heavy use of glass in the exterior will be joined by a smaller version that will connect to the Recreation Center.

“As you’re coming down from the Grunewald Science and Technology Center, you’ll be seeing a glass box on both sides and both will be housing pools,” said Taylor. “It will be an interesting view as you’re coming through campus. There will be a newly landscaped area between the two buildings. This pool will be strictly for recreation purpose, and it is not intended for competition or strenuous activity.  There will also be an AV system installed and a place where we could show movies. You could get several hundred people in there for parties.”

Taylor said the Students Association is paying the $4.2 million for the new recreation pool with money saved over the years in anticipation of the Tippin project. (Side view of Rec Pool.)

The “Tippin Transformation” is funded entirely through $41.9 million in state capital appropriations, and the budget also includes an additional $3 million for furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

The Tippin project will managed by the DGS (Pennsylvania Department of General Services) DGS manage project.

“We were actually hoping that finishing the project in the fall of 2017 might be a reality,” said Taylor. “Looking at that date right now it’s feasible. It’s a matter of how long it would take to competitively bid the project. We’re shooting for starting work at this time in 2015, a year from now actually starting to work in the building.”

“It will be done in six sequences because we can’t take the building completely off-line and renovated all at once. The gym must be done during the downtime seasons for volleyball and basketball. There’s simply no other space in the immediate area that we could even rent to hold games because they’re too small for spectators, and in the case of volleyball, too low or not high enough to meet NCAA regulations for arc of the volleyball. The natatorium is one sequence unto itself. Once that’s done the current can be converted to the auxiliary gym, then the office blocks are done as another sequence.  It will be a little bit of a Swiss watch project, and while we are looking for a full 2017 completion, but the reality is it could be go beyond that.”

The existing bronze Golden Eagle statue in front of the Tippin main entrance will receive a more prominent home.  The statue will be located east of the cul-de-de-sac in front of the new recreation pool, and it will be lit.

Taylor said there would be no major changes or additional parking for the new facilities.

Becht: A White House Approach

Becht is currently getting its own transformation into a student success center. (Photo: Inside Becht Hall by Chad Thomas.)

“The purpose of Becht Hall is for student success, from recruitment to all the way to graduation,” said Whitney. “It will include those really key services and programs such as student financial services, mentoring and counseling services, tutoring, all kinds of other programs specifically dedicated to success and graduation for our students.”

The project $15.5 million is funded by $13.3 million from state appropriations, and the remainder is from university funds. There is also a $1 million budget for furniture, fixtures, and equipment.  Clarion University has local control delegated from DGS.  A contracted construction manager is also assisting with the project.  Completion is expected in August 2015.

The Becht Hall project basically guts everything in the building and constructs a new steel frame on the inside for a building of modern office space.

“What’s interesting is that what is going on with Becht Hall is exactly what Harry Truman did to the White House,” said Taylor. “When he and Bess moved into the White House, the piano like fell through the floor, and he said this is ridiculous. They stripped the interior of the White House. They took down the historic fabric first of the building floors and walls.

“This is exactly what we’re doing. They rebuilt a steel and concrete structure, and that’s what we are doing within the historic walls of Becht. If it was good enough for the White House, it’s good enough for Becht Hall.”

One third of the building has been stripped of the floor and walls.  Concrete footers will support a steel structure followed by metal decking in which concrete floors will be poured.

“When we’re done, the structure itself will be just like a contemporary office building,” said Taylor. “At that point, what we’re calling tenant fit out will happen where all the different offices that are occupy the building will actually be walled up and created.”

“The outside of the Becht Hall will maintain its story look, parts of the interior will also retain their historic integrity. We did salvage some of the historic fabric of the building, and we salvaged all of the woodwork, for instance, that will be going back into the building. Anyone who remembers living in the building won’t necessarily recognize the interior other than one room once the project is completed because the floor plan has entirely changed from the old Becht Hall, except for the first room when you enter the building. People will remember this because of the arched windows. Back in the day this was also the dining hall. We’ve used metal tin pan ceilings we had in the building and will reuse fixtures and existing woodwork.”

The building will primarily serve pedestrians, primarily students. Taylor said he envisions most of the students would be walking to the building on campus.  The building will not bring additional parking, according to Taylor.

“On the site of the former Chandler Dining Hall east of Becht Hall, 45 wells were drilled 375 feet deep,” said Taylor.  “In the summer, water that has been circulated throughout the building and has absorbed the heat from the air will be pumped to the well field.  There the water will circulate through the wells and dissipate the heat to the soil and bedrock, where a constant temperature of about 55 degrees is naturally maintained.  The reverse is true in the winter where thermal energy from the ground is transferred to the circulating water of the wells and provides warm water to heat pumps throughout the building that distribute warm air to the occupied areas.”

Now used as a staging site for the project, the Chandler site will undergo additional changes and will include parking for visitors. Taylor explained that the grassy area from the old Chandler is sloped going down toward Egbert, but it will be plateau and could be a pick up recreation field.

The new master plan will propose that if additional new residence halls are needed, that could be built in that space, but that’s well into the future.



6/9/2014 8:35 AM

Tippin and Becht transformations ahead