BOONE — Due to what Appalachian State Board of Trustees Chair John Blackburn called a “tight construction market,” the board approved a $5 million increase in the university’s Kidd Brewer Stadium north end zone project budget on Nov. 5.
The board members met via conference call to discuss the project’s increase from $45 million to $50 million. The project — which ultimately is replacing the now-demolished Owens Field House — is proposed to be partially completed by the opening of the football season in fall 2020.
The building is proposed to open in phases, with Forte previously stating that the first and fourth floors of the facility are expected to be completed in time for the first home football game of fall 2020. The middle floors are proposed to be completed by that October.
The facility will include a conference and continuing education training space, an orthopedic clinic, dining facilities, a team store, hydrotherapy, approximately 1,000 premium (club) seats and offices for coaches and athletics staff.
Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte explained that in order to keep the project on track for next fall’s opening, the 43 bid packages for the project had to be bid out in stages. Three bid packages that were sent out had zero bidders and 11 packages only had one bidder, Forte said.
“I think there’s a timing issue on the end zone,” Forte said. “We knew it was being built at the top time of a robust economy. We just didn’t have the bidding interest we thought we were going to have.”
Five of the subcontractors — including tasks such as electrical HVAC, masonry and structural concrete — resulted in about $4.5 of the $5 million increase, according to Forte.
He added that the town has roughly $400 million worth of projects being built simultaneously, and for that reason the university has struggled with getting bidders. Michael Behrent, Faculty Senate chair and non-voting member of the board, asked if it were possible that App State’s own student growth was indirectly contributing to the growth of town construction and therefore causing higher costs for the university.
Forte responded by saying he talked with Boone Town Manager John Ward, and while some housing construction was for housing that could be student related, others are private developments, hotel projects or higher quality condos.
According to Blackburn, most university projects have typically experienced 10 percent overage in costs, and this increase likely follows that pattern “that sometimes happens.”
Forte added that in order to get the project completed on time, the increase needed to be approved. If the project is not promptly completed, other university revenues would have been put at risk.
“It’s unfortunate but I feel like it’s something we need to do,” Blackburn said.
The board unanimously made the approval. Forte said while the university didn’t anticipate going over budget, there were available revenues through auxiliary trust funds and athletics donations to pay for the increase. He added there would not have to be added cost or fees to students due to the increase.
The board also approved $2,538,880 for replacement of the synthetic turf at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Forte said the current field is at the end of its useful life, as it is 10 years old. Additionally, the construction of the end zone project has reshaped the layout of the stadium, which requires the modification of the turf. The hope is to also have this installed before next year’s football season, he said.
The project is funded by auxiliary trust funds and the athletics facility debt fee paid by students.
These two items will go before the Board of Governors — with the next meeting being Nov. 14-15 — for approval.