By Raygan Lopez
New updates and upgrades will be coming to Amarillo College’s Washington Street Campus soon, thanks to the $90 million bond approved by voters in 2019. The construction project will last about five years with the completion projected in 2025, said Danny Smith, Master Plan program manager. Renovations will be made to Russell Hall, the student services area and Carter Fitness Center. On all campuses disability accessibility and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is a priority, Smith said.
“Walking, talking, and seeing is a gift. We don’t know what it’s like not to have it. So we need to take care of other people and make their life as easy as possible,” Smith said. Restroom renovation will play a big role in improving all campuses’ ADA compliance, giving students in wheelchairs at least 5 feet distance in restrooms in order to allow them to make a complete turnaround.
With construction comes discomfort, Smith said, but not many students are currently on campus due to COVID-19, which will make the construction process easier. The loss of parking might become a separate issue when the project begins, he added. The construction projects will affect many students, particularly art majors. The art department will be moved to the basement of the College Union Building.
“The art department needs a good amount of space for supply storage and also for students to spread out their supplies,” Christi Dawson, an art major said. “I wasn’t convinced initially that the location chosen was enough because of the walls in place as they are now. It doesn’t look nearly the size of our space in Russell Hall,” A new art gallery on the first floor of the College Union Building is also in the works in order to attract students to the art department, Smith said.
The art department will be taking Student Life’s current location. Russell Hall will then become the Student Services’ building. Renovations on Russell Hall will begin around August or September or possibly sooner, Smith said. Student Life will then be moved to the first floor of the Student Services building.
“Currently in the basement, it’s hard for students to come down here and feel connected to what we have to offer,” Amber Hamilton, Student Life director said. “By bringing it to the same level as everything else, it’ll make the importance and value equal to everything else the college has to offer. Student Life will become a part of the full atmosphere of the student experience at AC. We hope that the new Student Life location will attract both students and faculty and grow interests in student organizations on campus,”
Remodeling restrooms and locker rooms will also be a part of Carter Fitness’s construction plan. Changes will include new office space, a conference room and expansion for CrossFit training with a patio to work out outside as well.
With athletics coming to AC, other renovations will be necessary. The regents voted to begin men’s and women’s cross-country, women’s volleyball and men’s baseball. “We’ll probably have a training room for all the athletes but locker facilities for women’s volleyball. We’re not really providing anything for the cross-country team,” Smith said.