On Jan. 25, The University of Southern Mississippi initiated two projects: A pathway along Ray Guy Way to McCarty and Scianna Hall and a band tower for Pride Field, contracting with Gulf Breeze LLC. The Mississippi Department of Transportation funded the pathway project from funds allotted by the Transportation Alternative Program alongside the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). USM provided 20 percent of the funding while MDOT matched the 80 percent. The TAP funds will pay $683,560, and USM will pay $171,000.
“If it’s a million dollar project or above, then we have to send all the paperwork to them and get approval, they review the plans and all that,” said Chris Crenshaw, associate vice president for Facilities Planning and Management. “If it’s under a million dollars, then we don’t have to go through the IHL.”
Crenshaw said the project has been in the waiting for funding for years. Crenshaw said the pathway would be a good addition to the campus and should help the mobility of students.
Tom King, commissioner of the Southern District of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said the project will include a raised crosswalk over Eagle Walk that will run to McCarty, ensuring safer means of travel for pedestrians and those with disabilities.
“It will benefit [the university] immensely, making a ten-foot- wide bike and walking path. It will connect dorms and make paths safer for our students,” King said.
King said the university had this large pathway planned for years in an attempt to connect the entire campus by pathways to ensure ease of travel. King said the crosswalk would help to ensure safety and to keep incidents from occurring.
“The crosswalk will provide a safe method of transportation, a safe pathway rather, for students traveling from Golden Eagle Avenue to Scianna Hall,” said Michelle Shinall, the assistant director for marketing and campus relations at the Physical Plant. “It will also benefit those with disabilities with improved access for those traveling that area with disabilities.”
Shinall said the proposed deadline for these projects will be late in the fall and students will pay for the $1,090,429 initial budget of construction of the band tower that is being built on Pride Field.
According to the Institutes for Higher Learning of Mississippi (IHL), the project was named “Pride Field Turf and Fencing,” which was put forth in March of 2015 with the intent of resurfacing the field with “synthetic athletic turf” and creating a fencing around Pride Field that would resemble the brick-and-iron gate fencing seen around the campus. On Sept. 17, the IHL heard a request of USM from a budget addition proposal in the September IHL Board Book to increase the budget to $1.315 million with the addition of a new band tower. This addition would cost an extra $225,000 with no change to the method of using student fees for funding. General contractor B.W. Sullivan manages the project.
“If we put down the turf first, then we would have to rip the turf out so we could lay the footings for the band tower,” Crenshaw said.
Catherine Rand, director of bands and professor of music, said she felt joy at being able to teach from a new tower that will help students and teachers by providing more space.
“The old tower was wooden and couldn’t have as many people up there, but now the Dixie Darlings director will be able to stand and give direction, and the color guard director can give directions,” Rand said.
The band tower will see completion by the end of this year. The pathway’s building is expected to improve accessibility for the Southern Miss community, and the renovation of the band tower is intended to convenience the Pride of Southern Mississippi.