N.C. State University plans to build a “boutique” dormitory for men’s and women’s basketball players, a project privately funded by the Wolfpack Club sports booster organization.
On Friday, the 32-member UNC Board of Governors gave N.C. State the authorization to use $1 million to begin planning the project, which is estimated to cost $15 million. The vote was not unanimous. Voting no were Marty Kotis and new members William Webb and Thom Goolsby, a former state senator.
Kotis, a commercial real estate investor, expressed concern about the cost per bed of the project, which is roughly $240,000, compared to typical dorms that range from $50,000 to $70,000.
“The red flag was the high cost per bed, which is really high,” Kotis said.
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Considering that many student facilities are arranged in four-person suites, that would equate to $1 million per suite, he added.
“Working families out there, no matter the [funding] source, would be pretty concerned about a million-dollar apartment for four kids,” he said. “It seems a little extreme to me. Or a lot extreme to me.”
The 62-bed facility, to be named Case Commons Residence Hall, will be inhabited by athletes and other students. Since 1996, NCAA rules have specified that residence halls have to be occupied by at least 51 percent non-athletes. The change represented an attempt to do away with special perks in athletic dorms that were not available to other students.
Case Commons will move students from off-campus housing to a location on central campus near athletic and tutoring facilities. It is expected to include community space, study rooms, laundry and a 24-hour desk. Resident advisers will also live in the building.
N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said he would not have approved of the project if it had affected student fees. He emphasized that the building is entirely financed by private donations through the Wolfpack Club.
The booster club agreed to sponsor the project to improve academic success, Woodson said.
“It will have both the men’s and women’s basketball program, where we know that in the early stage of their career at the university they’re most vulnerable to student success issues and retention,” Woodson told the board. “This is housed right next to what’s called Case Athletic Support Facility, where all the student athletes receive their tutoring and academic support.”
He said the building’s expense was due to the size and scope of the project and related utilities. The cost for students living in the dorm will be at or below the average cost of other residence halls on campus, Woodson said.
Other universities have put up similar high-end facilities geared to athletes. The University of Kansas is building an $11.5 million, 38-student apartment complex for men’s basketball scholarship players and other students. The building includes media rooms and a half court basketball court, according to the KU website.
UNC Board Chair John Fennebresque said he had confidence in Woodson, his staff and N.C. State’s Board of Trustees.
“I think it was well vetted,” Fennebresque said of the project.
Kotis said Woodson was doing great things at N.C. State and had the interests of students and student-athletes at heart. And he pointed out that Wolfpack Club supporters are willing to donate the money for the project.
“I do think it continues to show the importance some people place on college athletics,” he said. “I’d like to see us place that importance on college academics and educating the most students.”
The 30-plus non-athletes who end up in Case Commons will no doubt be lucky, Kotis said.
“It’s gotta be amazing,” he said.