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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
Here's a fascinating look at the reasons for — and the problems with — a proposed residence hall at N.C. State.
N.C. State spends somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000 per bed to build new dorms. If I pick the midpoint and do a little multiplication, that means State could put up a 300-bed residence hall for about $18 million, give or take.
The N&O wrote two fascinating stories last week about N.C. State's newest proposed dorm, which will cost about $15 million for just 60-some beds.
Here's how one of those stories started:
In July 2015, two top officials at N.C. State expressed doubts about an athletic department plan to build a $15 million dormitory for men's and women's basketball players that would house just 63 students.
At more than $150,000 per bed based on the estimated $10 million in construction costs, the average costs per student for the small, four-story "boutique" dorm, called Case Commons, would be as much as three times higher than the average of between $50,000 and $70,000 per bed for other N.C. State dorms. Most basketball players would have single rooms. More than half of the residents would by NCAA rule be non-athletes.
Stop right there. $150,000 per bed? Wow! You could probably build a whole house — an entire condo for sure — for less than that. Anyway, the story continues:
N.C. State chancellor Randy Woodson thought there were other projects that held a higher priority, according to emails obtained by The News & Observer. The school's chief financial officer at the time, Charles Leffler questioned the high cost and lack of efficiency of such a small project, he recently said in an interview.
"I've told (athletic director) Debbie (Yow) that there are many things I would see benefiting from the extra revenue associated with seating rights, but she seems to think this is hugely important for athletics, and particularly basketball," Woodson wrote in an email on July 29, 2015 to Leffler. "Therefore, I remain on board."
The story goes on to clarify a few things. State's CFO, who retired two years ago, told the N&O that his concerns at the time came from "a cost efficiency standpoint. Not from a programmatic standpoint." (In other words, he was worried about the cost, not the idea of a sports dorm.) It's also important to note that N.C. State athletic boosters - not the university - are paying for this new dorm.
The story also talks about the changes and delays to the project over the years. State has reduced the size of the building, eliminated a theater and increased the number of beds by two. Though the university approved the project in 2015, it's not scheduled to open until 2019 — a year later than expected. (One of the reasons for the delay: N.C. State wanted to give its new basketball coach a chance to offer his suggestions for the project.)
The second N&O story delves into where N.C. State got the idea for this boutique basketball dorm to begin with.
The short version: Lots of others schools are doing it. Yow visited two schools (Kansas and Kentucky) to check out their basketball dorms.
Duke professor Charles Clotfelter, who has written a book about big-time college sports, told the N&O why he thinks State wants this new dorm so much:
"It makes perfect sense. They want to win games within the rules. They don't want to lose to Carolina every year."
Beating Carolina (and every other team on your schedule) is always a worthwhile goal. Right?
This article was adapted from a post at The Syllabus, the News & Record's higher education blog. Contact John Newsom at john.newsom @greensboro.com and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.
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