by AUDREY BELTON
The University of Mary Washington has made many different advancements on campus this summer to help improve facilities and infrastructure.
Some of these improvements, such as replacing and modernizing water and steam pipes due to their old age, are not visible to students when they are fixed, but they serve an essential function to campus life.
According to the UMW facilities services page, the University has replaced 5,000 linear feet of water lines and steam pipes. By doing this, they were able to reduce water usage and make both the heat and water systems more efficient.
“The project is approximately 96% complete. There’s still a small stretch of pipe between Mason and Randolph Halls that will be replaced in the future,” said Capital Outlay Director Gary Hobson.
Ball Circle was closed in 2022 and some of 2023 due to this construction, and the project underwent progress the past three summers, according to the UMW facilities services page. This caused some events and traditions to be relocated to other parts of campus, such as, Club Carnival, which was moved to Jefferson Square.
Projects like this are often paused during the academic semester to minimize distraction to staff and students, but they continue to be present on campus, as some paths are still blocked during the school year, like the lawn in front of Westmoreland Hall at the beginning of the fall semester.
Some students haven’t had problems with the blocked paths. Rhane Elder, a senior geology major, said, “Construction hasn’t really bothered me. I would say I rarely run into any in my daily commute to my classes.”
Ball Circle is growing its grass back and in order to reduce foot traffic, sections of the lawn will be closed. Other parts of the lawn will remain open for students and impromptu events.
This is not the only part of campus that’s growing new roots, as James Farmer Hall underwent some updates this summer as well. The classrooms in the basement have new audio-visual systems like projectors, furniture such as chairs, flooring, ceilings, improved lighting and a family and unisex bathroom.
Additionally, Field D, which is used by various varsity teams, has been re-lit with brand new LED field lights that will be used during practices and games. The lights are being installed to keep the field up to NCAA standards, according to the UMW athletics page. These lights were funded by the University Reserves, and the update was a planned investment in the Battleground Athletics Complex.
Furthermore, in July, two rooftop units on top of the Jepson Science Center received new air handlers, which control the AC and heating in the building. There was an AC outage last spring while classes were still in session, which proved the need for new systems. This project coordinated with faculty and students who were attending summer classes or conducting research in Jepson, with some relocating to the section of the building that was not connected to the HVAC units being worked on and others going remote.
These updates and renovations are welcome additions to the campus. Many students enjoy past projects the University has pursued, like the renovation of Seacobeck Hall, which used to be the dining hall that hosted thousands of alumni over the course of 80 years. In January 2022, Seacobeck Hall reopened as the home for the College of Education and the Office of Disability Resources.
Katie Ammosini, a junior English major in the College of Education said, “I love the model classrooms and study rooms the most.”
Other past projects include Willard and Virginia Halls, which are both first-year dorms. Willard Hall was renovated and restored in 2019. The update added some 21st-century spaces to the dorm, which was built in 1911, including a 16-seat seminar room, two group study spaces, a large kitchen, a modern media room and two moveable glass walls according to the resident life and housing site.
Virginia Hall was renovated and restored in 2021 with a $19 million budget. The renovation, like Willard, included some contemporary touches, such as a central AC system, all-keyless entry, TV screens, an elevator, blackout window shades, a parlor, a seminar room, a full-sized kitchen and a game room according to UMW Voice.
A future construction project for the UMW community to look forward to is the new theatre and arts building. The schematic design, which outlines the fundamentals needed to build and analyze the building’s ground and geographical location was completed in fall 2023 and, according to the Facilities Services page, “the project is awaiting authority to proceed with preliminary design.”