Nearly one year after university officials postponed Kilcawley Center renovations, plans for new renovations are under way for the auditoriums of Cushwa, DeBartolo and Ward Beecher halls.
It’s what university officials are calling the first phase of campuswide restoration projects at Youngstown State University.
Gene Grilli, vice president for finance and administration, said auditoriums are receiving attention because of their capacity.
The project is budgeted for $2.5 million and is being financed through bonds initially intended to finance the Kilcawley Center project.
Rich White, associate director of planning and construction, said the work is scheduled to begin, in mid-May, with the projects culminating before the beginning of fall semester.
“They’re pretty big items, and they’re items that haven’t seen much attention over the last 30 years,” White said. “If you’ve been inside of them, they’re kind of dated.”
He said potential students see auditoriums before any other academic setting while taking entrance exams.
“It kind of made sense to approach it that way. Let’s try to fix up areas that people are going to see right away and maybe walk away with a better impression of what campus is going to be like,” White said.
Shifting focus toward these areas will also allow the time needed to draw plans for renovating the remainder of the buildings.
The plan calls for new carpet, seats and a fresh coat of paint in Cushwa and DeBartolo halls. Rows of wider seating will also be installed.
Freshman Safah Esmail said she’s relieved to hear that the seating will be adjusted.
“Right now, seating arrangements are clustered and overcrowded,” Esmail said. “The aisles should be wider.”
Ward Beecher Hall was recently renovated, but technology and other minor features, such as additional electrical outlets, will be added.
Multimedia components will also be revamped for each auditorium.
Plans call for electrical outlets on armrests of the seats to allow students to plug in laptops.
Freshman Alyssa Olmi said she could tell it was time for an updated look to the auditoriums.
“Some buildings can definitely be updated,” Olmi said. “I would like to see more technology-based classrooms.”
Olmi suggested the addition of SMART Boards, or interactive whiteboards.
“What we wanted to do was go off our benchmark, the College of Business, and eventually have all our buildings be of that caliber,” White said.
Aside from the auditoriums, smaller projects will begin across campus, such as the Lincoln Building’s roof, the elevators in Kilcawley House and Cushwa Hall, the Bliss Hall practice rooms and the athletic fields.
“Roofs are one thing we have to keep an eye on,” Grilli said.
White said the Lincoln Building roof was pushed ahead as a top priority due to leaks and blistering.
“We just put the math department there, and we want to make sure that class isn’t disrupted because of a leaky roof,” White said.
The cost for repairing the Lincoln roof is $250,000, and it is being funded through the same bonds.
With malfunctioning elevators in a few campus buildings, White said the administration intends to address those issues.
“[In] Kilcawley House and Cushwa Hall south, we’re going to completely upgrade the [elevator] carts,” White said.
Kilcawley House is funding its elevator by appropriating revenue gained through students’ room and board fees. The project will cost $234,000.
The Cushwa Hall south elevator is budgeted for $391,000 and will be furnished by capital funding provided by the state of Ohio.
A majority of Esmail’s classes are in Cushwa Hall. She said she’s concerned about the elevators.
“I usually avoid taking the elevators. They just look like they’re going to break down,” Esmail said.
After YSU revamps the elevators, she’d be more likely to use them, she said.
Sprucing up the Bliss Hall practice rooms is long overdue as well, Grilli said.
“It’s time to improve the quality of the facility and make it a better educational facility for our students,” Grilli said. “It’s a project that is essential to proper education.”
White said the focus will be on proper soundproofing and improved acoustics in the rooms. This project will cost $495,000 in capital funding.
Loew said he knows the odds are against them.
“I tell all my kids, ‘Don’t be embarrassed if it doesn’t work out for you, because it probably won’t,’” he said. “This sport, maybe 5 percent will survive.”
Even so, Loew said he doesn’t let the odds hinder his effort.
“I’m gonna take what their goal is and enhance their goal,” Loew said. “If their aspirations are to turn pro and be the middleweight champion of the world, I’m with you.”
Loew recently entered Edge and Hadley in the Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament. Hadley was eliminated early in the tournament. But Edge advanced out of the Cleveland regional, and will participate in the nationals in Mesquite, Nev., on April 28.
“This tournament can open up a lot of doors for me, or it can shut a lot of doors for me,” Edge said. “It’s a make or break situation.”
Preparing for the vital tournament, Edge works out at the Southside gym six days a week. He said he also runs the steps of Stambaugh Stadium at Youngstown State University — which he attended for two years.
When working with younger kids, Loew said he has a trick he often uses.
“I make them bring me their report cards,” he said. “Not that I’m gonna do anything about it, but they don’t know that.”
Loew said he strongly encourages education to his fighters. His prouder moments are persuading some fighters to obtain a GED diploma.
“We didn’t make them, but we kind of talked them into going back and getting their GED,” Loew said. “Of those four or five kids, two or three did go on to take some classes at YSU. … But not everybody is cut out for college.”
Edge said he did not attend spring classes at YSU because of family issues.
“It was hard for me to stay focused on school,” Edge said. “The saying goes, ‘School isn’t for everybody.’ Not saying I don’t have the potential to do it, but sometimes life’s situations prevent you from doing certain things. … You just gotta go with what God’s path has for you.”
Edge said he believes that lacing up a set of gloves is that path.
When Edge steps into the ring later this month, he will be given what he was looking for the day he walked into the Southside Boxing Club two years ago: the opportunity to prove his boxing skills to a national audience.
With a successful showing, he may be on the fast track to a professional career.
With a poor showing, he may be back to the daily grind of life in Youngstown.
It’s the cruel reality of the dangerous sport that many young men choose to gamble their lives on.
Loew has seen both sides.
“I’ve had all kinds of different kids in here, from every walk of life,” Loew said. “Fail or succeed, we’re gonna affect them one way or another.”