Revitalization and Construction Updates on Campus

Life’s only certainty is change, whether good or bad. Good change continues to come to UTC as the University beautifies and modernizes facilities on campus. 

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is always growing, always improving, always making changes both big and small. 

Perhaps the largest transformation in 2020 has come from the numerous construction projects underway on campus. Some are obvious—large-scale revamping and renovations to buildings—and some are behind the scenes—roofing replacements, underground utility line installation. 

Let’s take a trip across campus and have a look. 

Lupton Hall 

The most obvious construction work has been the gutting and complete renovation of the former Lupton Library into Lupton Hall. The king-size, 116,000-square-foot building was torn down to the concrete framework and rebuilt with new electrical, heating and air conditioning and lighting systems. The renovation also included revamping the interior layout to create room for classrooms, administrative offices and other uses. 

Inside, the Center for Women and Gender Equity, the Multicultural Center and the Office of International Student and Scholar Services moved in to new, spacious offices.  

The second and third floors now house some departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. Communications, Philosophy and Religion, Modern and Classical Language and Literature have new homes on the second floor. The College of Arts and Sciences advising hub also is on that floor. The third floor houses the office of Arts and Sciences Dean Pam Riggs-Gelasco along with Mathematics and English.  

 Fine Arts Center 

The Fine Arts Center also underwent a major renovation. Most of the electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning has been replaced or repaired in the Roland B. Hayes Concert Hall, the Dorothy Hackett Ward Theater and the more intimate Jim G. Lewis Studio Theater. The theaters have new, state-of-the-art projectors and huge projection screens. The building’s lobby was redesigned and updated with new furniture, lighting, signage and flooring. 

 Fletcher Hall 

Home to the Gary W. Rollins College of Business, the building sports new interior finishes and furnishings and improvements to lighting, restrooms and facilities for students with disabilities. Layouts on the second, third and fourth floors were reconfigured to make them more efficient and functional. 

Guerry and Decosimo Housing 

The two apartment complexes received $12 million in renovations that gutted the two buildings. Old carpeting was torn up and replaced by new flooring in the residential rooms. Kitchen appliances, water heaters and worn-out furniture were replaced in student suites. Several suites were updated to meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Plans are to start similar renovations in 2021 in Stophel, Walker and UC Foundation apartments with an estimated a cost of $28 million. 

McKenzie Arena 

The building’s sound system was upgraded, replacing analog equipment with state-of-the-art digital audio. The new system can target specific “zones” of the arena with public announcements and music. 

Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

The new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship opened on the second floor of the James R. Mapp Building and is available for all students across campus. The center has a large central area known as “The Nest,” where students can work and collaborate on their business ideas. The center also has a collaborative workshop area—a “makerspace”—that supplies equipment and technology for creative projects. 


By Christina Valenti 

Not one but two new eateries opened on campus for fall semester: Freshens and the Blue & Gold Bistro. Both dining options were created in response to students requesting healthier options and more variety. Hannah Grigsby, marketing coordinator for Aramark and Mocs Dining, explains that Blue & Gold Bistro replaced Which Wich this fall in efforts to provide a wide range of options to students during the semester.  

During the first few weeks of the new semester, Blue & Gold Bistro offered barbecue options such as pork sliders, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. Since then, rotating menus have been created and overseen by Executive Chef Andrew Millsap. Vegetarian and vegan options also are available, including a “Beyond Burger.” 

Freshens, Lupton Hall

Along with extensive renovations, a Freshens outlet was added inside the newly-renovated Lupton Hall (formerly Lupton Library) as another convenient place to grab a bite to eat in between work and learning hours, says Grigsby. Freshens features healthier options including wraps, salads and rice bowls. Freshens is perhaps best-known, however, for specialty smoothies like “Tropical Therapy,” a combination of pineapple, coconut, kiwi lime and “Maui Mango,” a mixture of mango, strawberries and bananas.  

To comply with COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Mocs Dining created varied options for eating on site and mobile ordering and take-out delivery. Blue & Gold Bistro is one of five campus dining venues offering mobile ordering, while dine-in seating is available at Freshens in Lupton Hall. 

Aquatic and Recreation Center 

New paint was applied to the swimming pool and water slide and a “Power C” painted on the bottom of the pool. New colors were painted on the walls and benches in the area. A host of new equipment is now available in the outdoors section, including stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, sleeping bags and tents. Electronic trackers were placed on all the fitness equipment to record usage patterns. 

Roof Replacements 

Routine roof maintenance was performed on the Metro, Military Science and College of Engineering and Computer Science buildings. 

540 McCallie Building 

Revamping the fifth floor is in the works. Among the improvements are new interior finishes and furnishings as well as upgrades to audiovisual equipment and overall technology. Lighting, restrooms and facilities for students with disabilities will be retrofitted. The national public radio station at UTC, WUTC-FM, is scheduled to move offices and broadcast studios from its current location in the basement of Cadek Conservatory within the McCallie Building’s fifth floor sometime in 2021. 

New projects 

Upcoming projects include planned renovations to Hunter Hall, which houses the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies, the School of Education, Interior Architecture and Design and the School of Psychology. 

Construction is currently expected to begin in 2021 on the Wolford Family Athletics Center, a 70,000-square-foot addition to McKenzie Arena. It will include a 35,000-square-foot addition and a separate 35,000-square-foot renovation the arena, all of which is expected to take two years to complete. The facility is named in honor and memory of alumnus James “Bucky” Wolford, who died in September 2017. 

Mastering Campus Construction

The devil is in the details for Kenny Tyler, the UTC architect who gets major building projects underway. 

Kenny Tyler, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.

Scope, money and time.

Those three pieces start the puzzle that Kenny Tyler must put together before any construction project breaks ground on campus. As director of Engineering and Planning Services, he is the gatekeeper for construction at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “Somebody comes to you and says, ‘Here’s what we’d like to do.’ “We establish, for instance, what’s the square footage gonna be? What is the look of the building going to be? What’s the cost going to be?” Tyler explains. 

All three questions have to be answered before UTC officials approach the State Building Commission to ask for money to fund a project, says Tyler, an architect by trade. If the state decides the project is viable and kicks in some money—which can take years—an outside architect is hired, and everything gets underway.  

Determining the cost can be one of the trickier parts. On first go-round, pretty much everything that everybody wants—from executive leadership to administration to deans to faculty— is tossed into the cauldron to simmer. A price tag comes out of the stew and sometimes the cost is far too high to expect the State Building Commission to give it a go-ahead. 

Tyler points to the proposed Health Science Building, slated to be built on property across from Erlanger Hospital on Third Street. The first price tag with all the bells and whistles came in at about $140 million, Tyler says. “There’s no way the state would give us that much money,” he says. After two years of study, the commission declined that amount. 

Back to the drawing board.

Cutting and chopping various features of the building, the price tag dropped to about $70 million, Tyler says, “but, you know, we don’t have $70 million lying around.” The plan today is to finish details in the new proposal in November, then take it to the State Building Commission and cross fingers. 

In other campus construction, renovation of the Fine Arts Center and turning the former Lupton Library into Lupton Hall have been underway. Both projects broke ground in April 2019; both were finished in August 2020. Total combined cost for them was about $46.6 million. Working on two buildings slowed the process, he says. “We worked on the Lupton drawings a little over two years as it also involved doing drawings for the Fine Arts Center at the same time. This added a level of complexity to the process and made it a longer process than usual.”  

He proudly points out several features in Lupton Hall’s new layout and inner workings, from classrooms structured to enhanced teaching and learning items to an open concourse providing space for students to gather (once social distancing is no longer needed). Tyler is proud Lupton is highly suitable for meetings, events, meetings, presentations “or Friday afternoon with a jazz band if you want it.” Lupton’s final look was a cooperative effort from the start, he says, but it took some wheeling and dealing on the-who-wants-what list for the building. “Everybody has a different idea about how things should happen, and I guess one of the things I do is try to interpret what this side is saying and what this side is hearing,” Tyler says. 
Once a job has the money and the design in hand and other details are ironed out, it’s time to get a bid from construction companies. At that point, Tyler’s work is pretty much done, and Danny West, director of construction services at UTC, steps in. “We have a baton handoff right about bid day on every project where Danny takes the project and he runs with it until completion,” Tyler says. 

Then, it is on to the next project. 

Preparation Requirements
Once the state approves funding for a construction or renovation building project, this process follows: 

  • Interview architects, make a recommendation to the State Building Commission, and the state assigns an architect with the University’s recommendations in consideration. 
  • Campus administration, faculty and staff give their thoughts on what needs to be included in the final design. A design is developed, and construction documents completed. 
  • The bidding process begins, and a contractor is selected.  
  • A starting date is determined after the contractor’s contract has been finalized. 
  • Construction begins and eventually is completed. 
  • UTC moves in personnel and takes ownership of the completed work. 
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