Assembly Hall fee to be addressed on spring 2013 ballot

The addition of a $25 Assembly Hall renovation fee for the next 30 years will have a place on the spring 2013 referendum. The Assembly Hall Student Referendum Committee received more than 3,300 signatures on its petition, meaning the question will appear on the March 5-6 ballot, said Adam Joines, chair of the Campus Student Election Commission. 

The commission has yet to finalize the language of the question.

The committee will need a majority vote in favor of the fee in order for it to move forward. 

“We’re hoping that this is an issue that brings out more voters than normal,” said Claudia Christy, chair of the committee and sophomore in AHS. “Everyone should know what’s going on with the University, and the best way to voice your opinion about it is by voting.”

If passed, the $25 fee will be evaluated by the Student Fee Advisory Committee, and the amount will be adjusted if necessary, said student trustee David Pileski. It will then be added, starting in fall 2014, to the general fee students pay every semester. 

Kent Brown, associate director of athletics, said University officials will take out a bond for the $160 million renovation. The funds from this fee would make up about 17 percent of the cost of the entire project, he said. 

The total cost of the project has not been disclosed to the public.

“This is one of the largest construction projects that will ever be on this campus, and the students are a big part of the usage of that building, in terms of entertainment, athletics, concerts, graduation, all those types of events,” Brown said. “Students now have an opportunity to build a legacy of supporting an iconic building that everyone’s very proud of.”

But some students believe that not enough communication has been relayed to the student body about the fee, especially with the date of the ballot approaching.

Student senator Tom Pacey, junior in Business, said he feels that the committee has not informed students enough about the fee. Other than stating the $25 cost of the fee on the committee’s website and Facebook page, he said the committee has not informed students of the full impact of the fee. 

“To ask us to vote on this fee, which is going to be committing tens of millions of dollars from students over those 30 years, without us knowing more about it, is the wrong way to go about it,” Pacey said. 

In December 2011, the University board of trustees approved the selection of the architecture firm AECOM to complete the renovation. 

Now, the board will have to grant approval to move forward with design and construction phases, Brown said. 

He said if all goes well, construction would begin once the basketball season ends in March 2014. Renovations would be broken up into phases and would potentially be completed by November 2016, he said. The men’s and women’s basketball teams would not be displaced during construction.

Improvements made to the facility will include new restrooms, new concession stands, better seating and more public gathering and concourse space, said Assembly Hall director Kevin Ullestad.   

An Orange Krush lounge will also be added for any student organization to use, and student fans will have seating on the floor for basketball games. And, with the addition of air conditioning, Assembly Hall will be open all year instead of being out-of-use during the summer, he said.

Ullestad said officials looked at many other Big Ten universities’ athletic facilities — including facilities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Ohio State University and Penn State University — to determine Assembly Hall’s major deficiencies in comparison.

Unlike the athletic buildings at Purdue University and Indiana University, which are mostly used for basketball games, Assembly Hall is a multi-use facility, he said.

“The entire building needs an update, really. That’s the essence of it,” Ullestad said. “It’s something that the student body should be very excited about because we’ll be able to do a whole lot more with the building than what we do now.”

Lauren can be reached at rohr2@dailyillini.com.