By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia
The local university is already bursting at the seams on their property next to Surprise City Hall.
Ottawa University officials inked a 65-year lease with the city last month and are busy advancing plans to add an athletic complex and other facilities as part of a development project originally announced late last year (“Panel talks City Center’s future: Planners, public weigh in on downtown development,” Surprise Today, Nov. 15, 2017).
Kevin Eichner, Ottawa chancellor and professor of business administration and organization development, said university leaders are pleased by the success of their collaboration with the city and eager to build out their first-ever Arizona residential campus.
“We’re grateful to be long-term locked-in and get the lease done,” said Mr. Eichner. “The relationship we have with the city of Surprise in no small way contributed to our very early success.”
He said although the new campus was only announced in February 2017, enrollment far outran expectations, with 434 students participating in an inaugural semester initially expected to draw only 250 to Surprise in the first year.
Originally envisioned as a three-phase project, timelines for the new complex have been accelerated by need and spurred by a $6 million gift from alums Jim and Jeanne O’Dell, which was announced in December.
“The work is beginning on our athletic complex,” Mr. Eichner said. “It will be one complex now, not separate buildings. With this great gift we got from our donor, it will be called the O’Dell Athletic Complex.”
Construction on the first phase is already under way and will involve field stands, concessions and public restrooms, which will be completed in time for the start of the fall semester and the first season of football at the young campus, he said.
“We will be playing our first full-year football schedule this fall,” Mr. Eichner said. “The field is there, but the rest has to be done.”
University officials also recently approved a new team logo and mascot uniform for the Surprise campus football team.
Though Ottawa sports teams compete under the moniker “The Spirit,” the local mascot is the grey wolf and the new costumed character will be called “Fang,” Mr. Eicher said.
The main multipurpose building will be located on a 13-acre parcel adjacent to Spirit Field, the football and soccer surface completed last fall. The three-story, 109,000-square-foot structure will house facilities for the school’s athletic and scholastic programs and is slated for an August 2018 completion.
The first floor will include locker rooms, weight rooms, training rooms and other team-support facilities.
The second floor will house offices for coaches, trainers and other athletic staff, as well as graduate assistants from the college’s local sports-related degree programs, Mr. Eichner explained.
“Our largest majors, sports management and sports medicine, will be a natural fit there,” he said.
The third floor – which will rise over only half of the building’s ground-floor footprint – will include a press box overlooking Spirit Field, as well as the Spirit Club and another multipurpose room, which can be used by the university or rented out for special events.
A second-phase indoor complex will start construction soon and is scheduled to open for fall 2019.
That project will include three full gymnasiums, with one slated to be a competition court with moveable seating for 1,200, which could also serve as a venue for other school-related and community events, such as commencements, lectures and concerts, Mr. Eichner explained.
“The indoor recreation facility will also be available to the city and our neighbors, with an indoor walking track and workout rooms and studios,” Mr. Eichner said. “The lobby will house our future hall of fame and trophy rooms, too.”
Ottawa has already selected an award-winning, local design and construction group for the estimated $22 million O’Dell complex project. Team members include general contractor Haydon Building Corp., civil engineering firm Dibble Engineering and vertical design by Cawley Architects.
Another project will be constructed by a different developer the university recently engaged through a memorandum of understanding, though school officials are not ready to announce the name of the firm yet, Mr. Eichner said.
The built-to-suit project will rise just east of Spirit Field to include a 300-bed dormitory, a 25,000-square-foot dining center, conference center and student union in two buildings also slated for a fall 2019 ribbon cutting.
The groundbreaking has not been scheduled yet, but preparations are ongoing Mr. Eichner said.
“In order to make the fall of 2019, we’ve got to get going,” he added.
In addition to the 13 acres under current development, the university has additional land for future expansion, which will eventually include more student housing and other facilities.
With the 10 to 12-year goal of building out to 2,500 to 3,000 students in Surprise, university officials are working on long term plans already, according to Mr. Eichner.
“We have future access to another 22 acres and we’re going to start master planning for that soon as well,” Mr. Eichner said.
Ottawa Arizona Vice President and Provost Dennis Tyner praised the success of the campus in its first year in Surprise.
“Our inaugural year at OUAZ was a memorable experience, with student enrollment that exceeded projections and six students who earned their bachelor’s degree,” Mr. Tyner said. “We have created a new learning model and student experience which includes FlexTerm scheduling, Wednesdays that are dedicated to personal and professional development workshops, and a mentoring program that focuses on the holistic development of each individual student.”
The university in its first year launched 17 academic programs and 22 varsity sports teams, who started competing on their new turf field last year.
The Surprise campus had six students walk among the 149 undergraduates and 134 grad students attending the May 12 commencement ceremony at Radiant Church, 15522 W. Paradise Lane.
Students in this year’s Arizona cohort also attended classes at Ottawa’s Phoenix and Queen Creek campuses, while some took online courses in addition to their classroom-based studies.
District 5 City Councilman Skip Hall said Ottawa’s success signals future opportunity for the whole community.
“I think that it’s a great development showing a long-term commitment to Surprise,” Mr. Hall said. “Ottawa will play a positive role in the economic impact and future development of the community, while providing a local choice for youth in Surprise who want to pursue high education.”