By STEVEN NALLEY
The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning approved an increase in funding and scope for a new, $12.5 million Mississippi State University dining facility and a $6.5 million MSU lighting retrofit project at its meeting Thursday at Jackson’s Universities Center.
The new dining facility will be located at the current site of MSU’s recreational tennis courts and will seat 650 customers in approximately 32,000 square feet of enclosed space, according to the IHL Board Book for the meeting. MSU University Relations Director Sid Salter said the IHL Board initially approved the project in September 2012 with a $10 million budget for a dining facility that would seat 500 customers. The IHL Board added $2.5 million to the budget Thursday, and it also approved an exterior design.
Perry Cafeteria recently underwent renovations, Salter said, but growing enrollment and increased hiring to accommodate that enrollment have made an additional dining facility necessary. He said MSU has long outgrown the concept of a single, central dining facility, and as such, it has already set up smaller dining locations across campus, such as the Burger King at Roberts Hall, Pegasus Dining at the Wise Center, and RFOC at the Templeton Athletic Building.
“The main idea is to locate this dining facility where there is an obvious need and where it lets students and faculty get to lunch and get back to their normal pursuits,” Salter said. “Consideration was given to (which site) would expand opportunities for students and (how that site would) fit into the overall transportation plan.”
Salter said the facility will use Aramark Dining’s “Fresh Foods” concept, but it is too early to announce a timetable for the facility’s construction and completion. MSU will construct new tennis courts near the recreational complex at South Farm before it constructs the dining facility.
“I expect the project to move along very quickly,” Salter said.
Unlike the dining facility, the IHL Board Book says the $6.5 million MSU lighting retrofit project will use existing operating funds made available through maturing investment instruments. It says the project will replace obsolete lighting in 5.5 million square feet of indoor space used by MSU, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, and the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
“The most common type of lamp on campus, a T-12 fluorescent lamp, will no longer be manufactured after 2012,” the IHL Board Book says. “Additionally, new lighting technology allows bulbs to last twice as long and use over 50 percent less energy than the majority of the existing lights on campus.”
Salter said the project will save MSU $1.15 million per year on operating costs, so the project will pay for itself within almost six years.
He said the project will have minimal impact on MSU’s day-to-day operations while offering visible benefits for faculty, staff and students.
“We believe people using the buildings will have a better experience,” Salter said. “Most importantly, it will reduce energy and maintenance costs and will move the university forward in accomplishing the desired environmental performance.
“In the long term, the university is made leaner and greener — leaner from the budget standpoint and greener from the energy consumption standpoint,” he added.