WESTVILLE | The green light has been given to move forward on a $34 million facility at Purdue University North Central that will give students more of a home to go to especially between long breaks in their class schedules.
''This is a game changer,'' PNC Chancellor James Dworkin told a crowd of several hundred people during a picnic on the campus near Westville to announce plans to build the Student Services and Activities Complex.
Many students like Leo Sawyers, 19, of Hammond, probably won't be around to take advantage of the various recreational offerings in the building when construction is finished in three years.
Currently, Sawyers said he spends his six hours between classes on campus studying and doing things like using the small fitness area in the Library-Student-Faculty Building.
"I think it's cool," said Sawyers, a freshman biology major.
Instead of driving back home, Stephen Pancoja, 20, of South Bend, currently spends his three-hour class breaks studying on campus or in the game room in the basement of the Library-Student Faculty Building.
"It's a good idea. I think we need that so we got more places to recreate and stuff," said Pancoja, a sophomore working toward a bachelor's degree in social work.
A fitness area and basketball courts for intramural sports are among the many features of the mostly single-story structure planned for a 1.6-acre site on the 268-acre campus along U.S. 421.
The Legislature approved plans for the facility in 2009 but withheld the funds until recently when lawmakers from the area pushed for the state funds to be released in a bill first introduced in the House.
"It's been a long time coming," said Diane Rich, 25, a pre-med student from LaPorte who graduates this semester.
Rich said it's a great campus but without a such a facility something appeared to be lacking from the college experience at PNC.
The new facility also will be home to the PNC men's and women's basketball teams and other indoor athletic squads and provide space for students in outdoor sports like baseball and softball to practice during inclement weather.
Indoor sports teams currently play home games at places like the Civic Auditorium in LaPorte.
"It'll be a great addition, I think, to this campus," said Rich.
The university also plans to use the new facility to host graduation ceremonies now held at Valparaiso University and major events like conference tournaments.
Stephen Turner, vice chancellor for administration at PNC, said the facilty will provide the type of connections to a campus that help students not only earn their degrees but receive them on time.
"This helps us in so many ways. It's hard to overestimate," said Turner.
Turner said the state is providing 70 percent of the estimated $34.7 million cost. The remaining will come from student activity fees and funds raised by PNC.
Construction is not expected to begin until next year to allow the designs for the building to be finished and take two more years to complete, said Turner.
Dworkin said the facilty should help in further growth in the enrollment, which stood at slightly more than 6,000 students at the start of the fall semester.
"We think it will increase the number of students who are interested in PNC," Dworkin said.