Regents approve funding allotted for center’s cost

By Katrina Kelly

Calling a DeKalb civic center a “positive opportunity” for the Board of Regents and NIU, the board unanimously approved $4 million in Regency funds Thursday for the center’s construction and operating costs.

The board, which governs NIU, Sangamon State University in Springfield and Illinois State University in Normal, met last week at SSU.

Although Regent Milton McClure, chairman of the board’s finance and facilities committee, voiced concern about the center’s operating costs, he said NIU “desperately needs” the center, and the board should take advantage of the opportunity.

NIU President John La Tourette said the DeKalb City Council has committed $2 million for the center’s surroundings, including any new roads that the center’s design might require. La Tourette said the center’s probable location on the NIU campus would require significant university participation and “generate the kinds of audiences” needed to make the center prosperous.

“We’re (NIU) going to be the primary user and make the project go,” La Tourette said.

In response to an inquiry by NIU Student Regent Bob Tisch, the board said NIU student fees will not be increased to generate funds for the center.

La Tourette said the center’s construction should provide a “good solution” to space problems in NIU’s Chick Evans Fieldhouse, which hosts NIU physical education classes as well as recreational activities and NIU sporting events. With the extra space provided by the center, NIU “can move the entire athletic department out of the fieldhouse,” he said.

Regent Sylvia Nichols said $4 million would be the board’s “maximum investment” in the center. SSU Student Regent Brian Hopkins asked how any construction delays and cost overruns would be funded, and the board replied that a cap would be placed on the board’s funding of the project.

In other business at the three-hour public meeting, the board approved 9 percent salary increases for Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves and the presidents of the three Regency universities. Groves’ salary was increased to $124,900, and La Tourette’s salary was increased to $106,200. The salaries of ISU President Tom Wallace and SSU President Durward Long were raised to $106,000 and 82,400, respectively.

NIU is “working cooperatively” with Rock Valley College and Rockford College in discussing the possibility of an NIU campus in Rockford, La Tourette said. An NIU Rockford campus would be an “important project for Rockford” and a “symbol of the commitment of the university to improve the educational services of Rockford,” he said.

DeKalb will be the site of hearings “on the entire structure of higher education in the state” sometime after Labor Day, LaTourette said. Hearings also will be held in Macomb, Carbondale and Chicago.

Plans for an addition to Faraday Hall will be presented at the board’s October meeting at NIU. The addition to NIU’s science facility is expected to cost almost $950,000.