OBU Board Gives Go-Ahead For Wellness and Athletic Facilities Planning

Unanimous approval of preliminary construction and funding plans for new wellness and athletic facilities, and affirmation of a new global outreach center highlighted the summer meeting of Oklahoma Baptist University’s board of trustees Friday on the campus in Shawnee.

In his state-of-the-university address to the board, OBU President Mark Brister cited several efforts under way as OBU moves toward its centennial celebration in 2010.

“We want to fulfill our stated vision to advance the success of our students,” said Dr. Brister. “OBU will be a thriving Christian learning community recognized for quality and intentional integration of faith and knowledge.”

Brister cited ongoing work related to residential life, campus ministry programs, faculty and staff compensation, and expanded student recruitment efforts. He noted the establishment of a new global outreach center on the campus, and plans for the wellness and athletic facilities.

“I want OBU to be known as the place to come for particular emphases,” said the president. “It is natural that our first center in this effort should be tied to missions and international service.”

The Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach was created in April 2005, and is serving as the coordinating office for the university’s missions and international service programs. The center is named for Dr. Avery Willis, a 1954 OBU graduate who has spent his career in Southern Baptist international missions programs. Trustees voted to affirm the center, which will offer varied service and mission opportunities, as well as educational resources through online data and specific mission courses.

Noting the need for on-campus expansion of wellness resources, Brister told the board they would be asked to vote on “an overall comprehensive wellness and athletic plan that could be operational as early as 2007.”

Board members reviewed proposals from university administrators regarding the need for enhanced wellness and athletic resources, and voted to proceed with steps to complete architectural and funding plans. The board’s executive committee will convene in early September to finalize construction plans and funding for the project, which is estimated at $13.5 million.

The cornerstone of the plan is replacement of OBU’s aging Clark Craig Fieldhouse, which opened in 1948 and served as the university’s main sports arena for 35 years. The fieldhouse, which seated approximately 1,500 for basketball games, has been used for intramural sports, special events, basketball camps, and indoor training for varied sports teams since OBU’s Noble Complex for Athletics opened in 1982.

OBU officials are proposing a two-story wellness center to be built at the location of Clark Craig Fieldhouse on the north side of University Street, just east of Airport Road. The facility would include three basketball/volleyball courts, a large cardiovascular workout equipment center, a climbing wall, three racquetball courts, offices, and locker rooms for the university’s current junior Olympic swimming pool.

Additionally, OBU plans renovation and expansion of the Noble Complex, adding office space, new basketball locker rooms, and a special event center overlooking the west end of the basketball arena.

Plans call for construction of a new eight-lane outdoor running track on the west edge of the campus. The university’s current track, which includes seven lanes, is located directly north of Clark Craig Fieldhouse. The track would be removed to accommodate lighted intramural fields for softball, flag football and soccer. Also, OBU would relocate its baseball field, currently at the corner of University and Airport Road, to the university’s land north of MacArthur Street. OBU added two new soccer fields in 2004, at the north end of Frank Buck Drive. The baseball facility would be located northeast of the soccer complex.

“We have to replace Clark Craig Fieldhouse, and we have to replace our outdoor track,” said Randy Smith, OBU senior vice president for business affairs. “This proposal gives us the opportunity to accomplish these objectives and enhance our campus resources.”

University officials asked the trustees to approve a funding plan for the varied projects. The wellness center construction would be funded from current monies raised for the project, and the issuance of bonds for the balance of funds. The other projects would be funded through other contributions. Smith projected securing approximately $7.8 million through bonds. OBU’s current bonded indebtedness is due to be paid off in 2011. Smith told board members the university worked with bond advisors to develop a structure whereby debt service would not be increased as a portion of the university’s operating budget.

The entire plan is contingent on two fiscal indicators: OBU’s current fiscal year, which concludes July 31, would show sound financial health for the institution; and the university’s enrollment for the fall 2005 semester would provide for a “healthy” operating budget. The board’s executive committee will meet in early September to assess the varied indicators. Based on a timetable Smith shared in his presentation, construction could begin as early as the winter of 2006.

In his remarks, Brister referenced the first of the indicators, reporting on the university’s 2004-05 fiscal year budget. The university took several steps in the fall of 2004 to address a revenue shortfall related to an enrollment drop for the fall semester. At the time, the potential budget deficit was projected to exceed $2 million. OBU’s approved operating budget for the year was $31.6 million.

“OBU’s income has increased throughout the year, and we have worked diligently to cut expenses,” he said. “Through careful budget management, OBU has completely erased the deficit which was projected. We will end the year with a balanced budget and a small fund balance surplus.”

In other business during the general session in OBU’s Bailey Business Center, the board also approved an OBU study of additional athletic programs which may be feasible or desirable for the campus. OBU currently offers 16 varsity sports.

Trustees approved contracts for eight new faculty members. New faculty include Dr. David De Seguirant, assistant professor of music/director of choral activities; Justin Hardin, assistant professor of religion; Dr. Lee Hinson, associate professor of church music; Hossein Kalami, instructor of French; Dr. Nathan Malmberg, assistant professor of biochemistry; Stephen Miles, assistant professor of music; Dr. John Mullen, assistant professor of philosophy; and Dr. Ben Myers, assistant professor of English.

The board also ratified emeriti status for 10 retired faculty and administrators. The designation is designed to recognize the individuals’ long-term contributions to the university. Honorees, and their titles, include Dr. Oteka Ball, professor emerita of sociology and child care administration; Dr. James Farthing, professor emeritus of history; Dr. Ramona Farthing, professor emerita of French; Dr. Joe Hall, professor emeritus of English; Dr. Juanita Johnson, professor emerita of nursing; Dr. Bill Mullins, professor emeritus of history; Dr. C. Mack Roark, professor emeritus of Bible; John W. Parrish, executive vice president emeritus; Dr. Joe Bob Weaver, vice president emeritus for Academic Affairs, and Pattisue Thoman, librarian emeritus.

The meeting of the 33-member board was moderated by the board’s chairman, Ken Fergeson, a banker from Altus. At the conclusion of the meeting, trustees elected a slate of officers for 2005-06. Elected as chairman is Doyle Pryor, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sapulpa. Vice chairman will be Sen. Jim Howell, of Midwest City, and secretary will be Griff Henderson, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Newalla.