Web Update: A move of the dirt brings college one step closer to facilityƒ?TMs construction

By Matthew Stone

Protestors stood to one side and student athletes to another Thursday afternoon as administrators, trustees, select students and others donning white hard hats tossed around the first of what is sure to be more dirt to come as the college prepares to begin construction on the new Macalester Athletic and Recreation Center, dubbed MARC.

Speeches by President Brian Rosenberg, Board of Trustees Chair Jeff Larson ’79, Trustee Lee Nystrom ’73, and Macalester College Student Government President Jess Hasken ’07 marked the ceremonial groundbreaking of the forthcoming facility.

The speakers evoked the $41 million athletic facility, on which construction is scheduled to begin in January, as a bastion of community and wellness designed to serve all students, not only athletes. Rosenberg and Hasken touted the green building techniques to be employed in the facility’s construction in an effort to make the structure more environmentally friendly.

“Spaces matter, this building really will matter to Macalester,” Rosenberg said in his remarks. “It will be a place where people will gather and create a stronger community.”

Nystrom, who chaired the facility’s fundraising committee, quipped that the name MARC is merely a placeholder.

“We still have some naming opportunities,” Nystrom announced to the hundreds of trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students gathered in front of Leonard Natatorium. “So if anyone wants to write a real big check, we can change [the name].”

Nystrom noted that his committee is halfway to meeting its fundraising goal.

Hasken praised the involvement of students in the design of the new facility.

“Student environmentalists have changed the entire floor plan,” she said.

Student jazz musicians entertained attendees before and after the ceremony as those gathered sipped fruit punch and water in souvenir cups.

Protestors, some not fully dressed, staged a peaceful rally, waving signs that criticized college priorities that some say have gone askew ever since trustees voted to eliminate need-blind admissions in January 2005. The athletic building should not come first, they argued.

“Access, not Excess,” read one sign. “We miss need-blind,” read another.

Another point of protest was the absence of plans for gender-blind bathrooms in the new facility.

“Homophobia is not dead. I want a Queer-friendly gym,” read a third cardboard sign.

A special-invitation dinner in Kagin Commons attended by trustees, student athletes and others, including former Vice President Walter Mondale ’52 followed the ceremony.

Planners say construction on the building will be completed by Fall 2008, a year ahead of the completion of the University of Minnesota’s new $248.7 million TCF Bank Stadium, on which the U broke ground last Saturday.

Emily Smith contributed to this report.