The second floor of the Cook Library will be home to the Bower Academic Center for athletes by the end of the spring semester.
The $1.8 million project will house a new tutoring center for student-athletes upon its completion, and, according to the director of the physical plant Chris Crenshaw, Ph.D., the center should be completed by late April to early May 2020.
Southern Miss Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain said there will be about 18,000 square feet of the second floor devoted to the center which will have computer labs, classroom space, study rooms and academic counselors offices.
“We got—you’re talking about— 400 to 450 students that are student-athletes, so it is a space that is much more conducive to meeting the needs [of the students] than where we are now,” McClain said.
The project is currently in phase one, which Crenshaw said involves the demolition of the space on the second floor and renovation of Cook Library’s roof.
Student-athletes previously studied at their old tutoring center within the west side of the M. M. Roberts Stadium, and according to McClain, it was not worth the cost to renovate.
“I think the original project called to renovated the space that is currently being used,” McClain said. “Once our facility people and architects started to really dig into it, it was going to cost a lot more [than they thought] to get it up to a standard that our university wants to have.”
Crenshaw said he and a committee began looking for possible locations to move the center, and the second floor seemed to be the best option for the parties involved.
The library is the perfect space for student-athletes, McClain said, because it takes them away from their usual space on the west side of the football stadium.
“Quite honestly, [student athletes] need to be in the library,” McClain said. “They need to be a little bit further away from the daily interactions of athletics, and be in a setting where we can make sure they are doing academically.”
The second floor will not only hold the Bower Center, but will also hold a few free group study rooms. McClain said there will be space for nonathletes on the second floor as well.
“That second-floor space is not all going to be academic,” McClain said. “If you walk up and you see a sign there now, half of that will be for Bower Academic Center. The other half will still be utilized on a daily basis by the library.”
Along with the creation of the Bower Center, there is a myriad of renovations happening simultaneously including new light fixtures, fire alarms, mechanical improvements and elevators. Along with these improvements, the bathrooms will also be renovated.
“It’s not just about student-athletes,” Crenshaw said. “It is about all of our students and how it is going to impact them in terms of their retention in school and hopefully impact their graduation rates.”
Crenshaw also said the renovation is taking longer than they hoped for because the library is operating in normal capacity while they are doing the construction.
“[Students] will see zones sectioned off where the workers will work are going to work; then they will move their safety zone,” Crenshaw said. “It takes a lot longer to work like that. It is more cumbersome for the workers.”
Some student-athletes are excited for the move to a larger space. Junior business major Madison Lawler, who plays volleyball, said she thinks the larger space will be more conducive to learning without being in earshot of other tutoring sessions.
“I’m super excited because there will be more space to study, and [the Cook Library is] neutral to campus which will make it an easier walk between classes,” Lawler said. “I think it’s going to be beneficial for athletes from all sports.”
Sports Editor Makayla Puckett contributed to this story.