The western end of the East Tennessee State University campus will look very different once a $23 million parking and tennis project is completed in the next few years.
David Collins, ETSU vice president for finance and administration, said a design created for a roughly 1,200-space parking garage at the corner of John Robert Bell Drive and West State of Franklin Road must go to the Tennessee Board of Regents for final approval, but bids for construction could be accepted by March or April. Construction on the facility could begin by next summer.
At that corner now sits a 200-space parking lot. A little farther south is a staff parking lot, Warf-Pickel Hall and tennis courts. The tennis courts will be eliminated to allow more parking to accommodate the loss of the roughly 200 spaces where the parking garage will be built.
Twelve new tennis courts will be built near the school’s soccer stadium, which is a little farther west.
“That’s never been a real good place to be playing tennis at, in the middle of everything,” Collins said.
The new courts will be used by athletics and intramurals. Eventually, the school intends to create indoor courts.
Because the tennis court project is now part of the overall parking project, the budget was increased from $21.5 million to $23 million.
With the addition of parking where the tennis courts are now and the construction of the parking garage, the net gain of parking spaces would likely be between 900 and 1,000 spaces, Collins said.
There are also plans to reroute the roads in that area to improve traffic flow through the campus.
John Robert Bell Drive would be essentially a pedestrian walkway, according to the plan, with a portion of that road serving as an entrance to the parking garage. That would create safe access to the parking garage without students having to cross a busy entrance to campus, Collins said.
The parking lot at the end of Warf-Pickel Hall also will be closed to help establish a walkway on John Robert Bell, which is another reason for the tennis courts’ being turned into parking spaces.
The first floor of the new garage will be the parking office’s new location and the second floor will be public safety’s new office. These offices are currently located on the east end of campus.
There will be a food service space in one section of the building.
The parking garage will be paid for by an increase in student parking fees from $25 per semester to $50 per semester. Freshmen and sophomores paid the increased parking fees this year. Juniors will pay the fees beginning next year. Seniors and graduate students will pay the increased fees the year after that.
The parking garage was designed not to look like a parking garage, Collins said.
“We’ve been very mindful in the design that that is a major building right on a major part of campus,” he said.
Therefore, the garage has been designed to match some of the other campus academic buildings.
“I think they’ve done an excellent job with that,” Collins said. “It looks very nice.”
The parking garage should be ready by fall 2013.