WMU News

Campus officials study city's building offer

October 15, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University officials are pondering a proposal by Kalamazoo city officials that would move WMU's baseball and softball facilities across town to make way for a new paper science research building.

Kalamazoo Mayor Robert B. Jones and City Manger Pat DiGiovanni have proposed to University officials the creation of a paper science center on the land currently occupied by WMU's baseball and softball fields on Stadium Drive. The city proposal called for moving these fields to the Annen Sports and Recreation Complex off Mills Street and King Highway.

The paper science center would be built by the city using tax-exempt Building Authority bonds. WMU would lease the building from the city and take advantage of low operating costs because of its location next to the power plant, city officials say.

"This proposal is clearly a win/win situation for the city and the University," Mayor Jones said. "We want this to be the first stage of a long-term partnership with Western to transfer University research and technology to business and industry which benefits Kalamazoo and the entire region."

The proposal was prompted by the University's inability to site on campus a facility to house $25 million worth of papermaking and coating equipment recently given to WMU by Fort James Corp. The University received a proposal from Battle Creek last month to site the facility in that community and had asked Kalamazoo officials to develop a proposal for locating the new facility in Kalamazoo.

The city's proposal is strongly supported by the greater Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce and the Business Development Bureau, which assisted in drafting the proposal and making the presentation. Chamber President Larry Mankin remarked that, "The campus site is perfect for the paper science center because it is close to all other University programs and functions. It's a great location for access by faculty, students and visitors and offers the amenities of downtown. We looked at many other sites throughout the county and the city, but this location just made the most sense."

"We appreciate all of the hard work and creativity that the city and others have put into this proposal," President Floyd commented after hearing the proposal. "We will give it serious and careful consideration and respond just as soon as possible. One of our important next steps will be to review this proposal with our Board of Trustees."

The paper science center could also be used by the paper industry to conduct research. "Locating the center in Kalamazoo is a natural because we have a cluster of paper manufacturing and processing companies second to none in the state," stated Richard Goff, the city's economic development and planning director.

Relocation of the baseball and softball playing facilities to the Annen Complex will make those programs more accessible to the community, according to City Manager DiGiovanni. The city plans to build locker rooms on the site and a new softball diamond behind Sutherland Field. Sutherland would become the home field for WMU, offering a lighted diamond and three times the seating of Hyames Field.

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 616 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu

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