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A Merryman Center weight room upgrade is among the projects approved Monday by Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors.

Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors on Monday voted to move forward with $164.4 million in campus capital projects and laid the groundwork for public comment on potential tuition increases at future meetings.

The board met Monday in Northern Virginia.

For the construction projects, all in Blacksburg, the next step will be for the university to seek out contractors for: a new $74.2 million undergraduate science laboratory, a $63 million student wellness center renovation and expansion, the construction of 10 new livestock and poultry research facilities costing $22.5 million, and a Merryman Center weight room renovation and expansion costing $4.9 million. Money for the projects is secured, Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski said.

Here’s a more detailed look at them:

  • The undergraduate laboratory is the school’s “top capital outlay priority,” according to a university news release. The new building will be 102,700 square feet and located on what is a present day surface parking lot at the intersection of West Campus Drive and Perry Street. The building will “provide adequate laboratory and classroom space to support growth in Virginia Tech’s undergraduate science programs,” according to the resolution. Construction is slated to start next summer and the building should be occupied by fall 2022, according to a presentation given to the board.
  • The student wellness project will include mostly renovation and a little new construction of 263,000 square feet of space at War Memorial and McComas halls. The goal is to improve exercise and recreational sports facilities and will add various amenities. The project is slated to begin this fall, finishing in summer 2021.
  • The 10 new livestock and poultry research facilities will be located along Plantation Road, at the Smithfield Horse Center, Kentland Farm and the Glade Road Poultry Research Center. Most of the new buildings are designed to replace outdated facilities that are slated to be demolished. A new swine facility will also be constructed at Kentland Farm. This project will begin next spring and is expected to be done by summer 2021.
  • The Merryman Center weight room renovation and expansion is funded entirely by private donations. It will feature more space for football players to lift weights and will contain a small “grab ‘n go” food service space. The project is scheduled to begin this fall and be completed in fall 2020.

Also on Monday, the board amended its bylaws in accordance with a state law that requires public comment before a university’s governing body can increase tuition and mandatory fees.

The comment period will follow the university’s advertisement of a potential tuition and fee increase at least 30 days before the board meeting on the matter.

People will now have a chance to comment before increasing tuition via a written process or during a budget workshop with a public comment period. At least three members of the board would be present for the workshop and it would feature a PowerPoint presentation that gives background of “the university’s tuition and fees and factors considered,” according to a recommendation from Tech president Tim Sands’ leadership team.

Following the presentation, speakers, who must be pre-registered with the board secretary at least seven days in advance of the meeting, will have a public comment period of 30 minutes. Each speaker will be limited to three minutes “and must restrict their comments to tuition and fees only,” according to the recommendation.

The board “will not respond to oral or written comments,” according to the recommendation.

In the spring, Tech’s board voted not to increase tuition and mandatory fees for the first time in almost two decades after the General Assembly offered public universities an incentive not to do so. Every school in the state took the incentive.

At Monday’s meeting, the board took a number of tours of Tech’s facilities in the area and took a look at what will become the school’s Innovation Campus — a project tied to the new Amazon headquarters coming to the Northern Virginia.

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Robby Korth covers higher education, primarily Virginia Tech.

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