Copyright 2017 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
All Rights Reserved
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Marquette University is moving ahead with the first phase of construction of a new athletic performance research center, but it will be built on a much smaller site in the heart of campus instead of on a largely vacant area of downtown's west side.
Marquette announced last year that it would partner with Aurora Health Care to build the new research center, but Aurora's role is now unclear.
"Marquette and Aurora Health Care continue to be in discussions about concepts within the new facility, which will be located a block south of the Aurora Research Institute and Aurora Sinai Medical Center," Michael Brophy, chief communications officer for Aurora Health Care, said Monday.
Aurora — the state's largest health care system — originally announced it would invest $40 million toward a $120 million, 250,000-to-300,000-square-foot research facility. It was touted as the single largest partnership investment by Aurora in Milwaukee and the Jesuit university's most ambitious building project ever.
The first of four potential construction phases is expected to cost about $24 million, Marquette spokesman Brian Dorrington said. Financing for the athletic research center will come through private fundraising and corporate partnerships, he said.
Marquette is fully committed to moving forward with the first phase, said Lora Strigens, Marquette's vice president for planning and strategy. "We're hopeful our fundraising and partnership conversations will continue to be successful," she said.
Aurora is in the midst of big changes now, as a planned merger with Advocate Health Care Network — the largest health system in Illinois — was announced last week. That merger would create the 10th-largest nonprofit health system in the country.
The location change and downscaling of the project are significant.
The site is shifting from a four-block tract at the west end of downtown to the southeast corner of W. Wells St. and N. 12th St., across the street from the Al McGuire Center, in addition to its proximity to the Aurora Research Institute and Aurora Sinai. The site currently is a parking lot, just north of Marquette's Zilber Hall.
The new athletic performance research center potentially could fill a whole city block, but future development also could add floors to the first-phase building, Strigens said. The project is envisioned as a four-phase development.
Moving the facility to the heart of campus is considered an important piece in making Wells St. a pedestrian-friendly "campus town" gateway to the north side of campus.
The west end of the so-called campus town will be anchored by a new $108 million residence hall complex scheduled to open next fall. A recently opened Sendik's food store is located on Wells, east of the residence hall. And the new athletic performance research center will be the east side gateway to campus on Wells St., Strigens said.
The athletic research center no longer will include a large field house, which made up about half of the original design.
A new seasonal dome, which enclosed the synthetic turf field adjacent to the Valley Fields facility, opened last January, and already serves thousands of NCAA student-athletes and club and intramural sports participants.
University officials said they decided the dome fills the need for covered field space and is a more cost-efficient alternative to incorporating a field house into the new athletic research center.
Marquette President Michael R. Lovell first announced his vision for the research center two years ago, stating that it would support elite intercollegiate and professional athletes, academic research and campus health and wellness initiatives.
Lovell also said then the Bucks would play a key role but officials said Monday that is unlikely to be the case.
"I think they will have some interest in the research piece," Bill Scholl, vice president and director of athletics, said Monday of the Bucks. "But we don't anticipate them to be actively involved in the project."
Scholl said some of the center's research will involve elite athletic performance and the Bucks could be involved with that.
Marquette's Board of Trustees approved groundbreaking and design plans during a meeting Friday. A formal groundbreaking ceremony is expected in the coming weeks.
The site changed during Marquette's master planning process, when the 12th and Wells location was identified as a high-impact location for the campus, university officials said. Preliminary environmental tests at the site have already been done.
Original plans called for the facility to span four city blocks — 10 acres — bordered by N. 6th St, 10th St., W. Michigan St. and the Marquette Interchange. It was to be about the same size as the downtown Wisconsin District convention center and a third the size of the new Bucks arena. It was to include an indoor track, a lacrosse field and indoor golf practice area.
Dorrington said the university will take its time evaluating the best use for that prime location.
"We know that this is a highly visible and valuable location that further connects Marquette to downtown Milwaukee and we will continue to evaluate the best use of the land," Strigens said.
Lovell said the new location is "smarter and more convenient" for student-athletes, faculty and staff who will be housed in the new athletic performance research center.
"While the location has changed, our vision to advance our mission through innovative sports and human performance research remains unchanged," Lovell said.
The first phase of the athletic performance research center will include:
Space for faculty researchers who work in a wide variety of fields to move into the facility.
Thanks to a group of benefactors, phase one will include locker rooms and support space for the lacrosse programs and golf team. Since their inception as NCAA programs six years ago, the men's and women's lacrosse teams and their 90-plus student athletes have not had locker rooms.
The facility will also house additional strength and conditioning spaces for the athletic department and a centralized core of laboratories for conducting human performance research.
Read More of Today's AB Headlines
Subscribe to Our Daily E-Newsletter