Campus News

Bethel entertains concept of welcome center

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Although Bethel College hasn’t had an official welcome center since it opened in 1947, Bethel College President Dr. Gregg Chenoweth and the Bethel College Board of Trustees are working to approve a plan that would allow the construction of a new welcome center and conference space. The idea of a welcome center is not new, it has been thrown around for about 40 years. “You can only sell nostalgia for so long,” said Dr. Chenoweth.  “(The welcome center) fulfills both a need and an opportunity.” The current Admissions Office was renovated from a barn that remained on the property after Bethel College was constructed. Since the college has grown, this facility is no longer large enough to accommodate all the offices needed. Bethel College also caters to many organizations that hold conferences over the summer months. For example, Conn-Selmer, a company that specializes in the making of brass instruments, has held its national conference on campus for the past four years. The goal of the new welcome center is to provide more offices for admission counselors and financial aid, offer more areas for graduate and adult studies, and present a new conference space, that could hold 400-450 people from visiting organizations. The new welcome center would be attached to the Dining Commons, across the street from the Wiekamp Athletic Center. The current concept of the two-story building would split the floors. The top floor would combine the conference center and office space.  The bottom floor would hold more office space and include a student community center. “I want students to be able to get together and hang out, play cards, and watch movies,” Dr. Chenoweth said when asked for the reason behind the addition of the student center. Currently, the plan only consists of schematic drawings. Upon approval, architectural drawings would take another six to eight months. Construction of the building would last one year after that. The project will be split into two phases. There are not enough details at this time to determine the two phases. The total estimated cost of the project is $7 million. All money will be raised through philanthropy and approximately $3 million has already been pledged. Chenoweth said Bethel College will not take on any debt during this project so that student tuition will not be affected. There are safety policies to keep the college from taking on too much debt. For example, when an idea is approved by the board, 115 percent of the funds must be pledged or raised. Before construction on the same idea has begun, it is required that the college have 75 percent of the cash in hand. Nevertheless, Dr. Chenoweth said, “I am prayerful and hopeful that in a year’s time, we would have enough commitment for at least the first phase.” The specifics of the idea have not been worked out at this time and the board has not yet approved the concept.      
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