An increase from 100 to 200 student clubs and organizations over the past few years is a positive indicator of the high demand for Florida A&M University’s growing co-curricular offerings. In order to accommodate and modernize the social, experiential learning and accessibility needs of the student body, the University is in the planning stages of a new performing arts amphitheater to enhance the student experience and customer service, which are priorities of the University’s “FAMU Rising” Strategic Plan.
Developing the outdoor gathering space is the brainchild of the 2017-2018 members of the Student Government Association (SGA), who saw the need to meet the growing demand for more activity space for the campus community.
The amphitheater will include a stage with an approximate radius of 22 feet, ample seating, enhanced wheelchair access and green space. It will also help enhance the University’s market day, “Set Friday,” an ongoing student tradition at FAMU for decades.
Students will be able to host meetings, performances, rehearsals, key events, food trucks, outdoor markets, and festivals at the amphitheater, which will be designed to promote more culturally diverse activities and events that unify the student body. It will also be available as a rental space for the greater community, which will assist the University in generating additional revenue to enhance the student experience.
The amphitheater is expected to go online in the 2019-2020 academic year and will also offer additional parking for students on campus, providing more than 100 new spaces.
“During my administration as SGA President, I was proud to approve this unique space that will meet the many requests of the student body to not only create additional parking in central parts of campus but to also expand the spaces students have to gather, entertain and participate in co-curricular activities,” said former SGA President Devin Harrison. “Our students deserve state of the art, modern facilities to enjoy their college experience and this project, fittingly focused around the theme ‘Expression, Creativity, Imagination and Inspiration,’ will contribute to that.”
According to FAMU project manager Craig Talton, the amphitheater project is estimated to be valued at $2.7 million, which includes demolition, environmental work, design, construction and furnishings. In spring 2018, SGA contributed approximately $1.5 million in capital improvement trust funding to the project for the 2018-2019 academic year. The remaining costs will be covered from mixed funding resources.
“I am excited to see the return of investment for this project and the outcomes of its role in helping the University to meet its commitment to enhancing the student experience and customer service by adding more parking offerings and more entertainment, gathering and open-air learning spaces,” said David Jackson III, current SGA President. “Research and observations show that the more students are active on campus, the more likely they are to be successful in their matriculation.”
The amphitheater will be located off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard across from the Student Union, which is where McGuinn Hall, Diamond Hall, Wheatley Hall, Cropper Hall and the William Gray Building are currently located. These buildings, which have been offline for several years due to age and deterioration, among other livability factors, currently cost the University hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain each year. In order to provide cost savings for the University and to get more use out of the space, this site was selected by the University after several feasibility studies on locations to house the amphitheater.
“This project will pay homage to the student housing spaces that will be repurposed during this process by helping to further facilitate the growth and development of our dynamic students, just as our housing facilities have helped to do for countless years,” said William Hudson Jr., Ph.D., vice president for Student Affairs. “We look forward to developing new housing facilities and academic buildings on campus in the near future that will modernize our housing and student resident life options.”
Due to the historical and sentimental value of the buildings to thousands of FAMU alumni, the University will launch a Legacy Fundraising Campaign that will offer several tax-deductible options to donors, which include purchasing one of a limited number of bricks preserved from the former housing facilities and purchasing bricks for the Legacy Walkways Fundraising Campaign similar to the University’s previous 21st Century Brick Fundraising Campaign.
In addition, alumni or former employees who lived or worked in the buildings, and who wish to make donations toward the University’s student success initiatives, will have the opportunity to have their names installed around the stage area of the amphitheater. Details about both campaigns are forthcoming and will be made available at www.famu.edu/UniversityAdvancement.
“The amphitheater project is currently in the design phase and we are tentatively planning to commence the demolition of the site in January, finishing up in May, with the goal of starting construction in the summer months to launch the new space by fall 2019,” said Sameer A. Kapileshwari, Associate Vice President Facilities, Planning, Construction, and Safety, who noted that the University will roll out a new campus master plan for 2020.
The design team for the project is Gilcrest Ross Crow Architects. This week, the University began receiving proposals for contractors who will perform the demolition; this process will be followed by requesting proposals for the construction phase. Ram Construction and Development, which has a continuing service agreement with the University, will serve as the construction manager for the project.
The plan for the amphitheater will be discussed as an information item during the University’s January Board of Trustees meeting.