By Kim Walter
After a year and a half of planning, a groundbreaking was held Wednesday for Lord Fairfax Community College's new student center at the Middletown campus.
President Cheryl Thompson-Stacy said the 32,000-square-foot facility should be ready to open by January 2014, in time for the spring semester. It is set to include a fitness center, two exercise rooms, two classrooms, a food service area and café, an expanded bookstore and student life offices.
The new building comes after surveys revealed that a student center was the No. 1 campus need requested by students. Thompson-Stacy said the desire to have a student union on campus also fits in with the recent enrollment growth, particularly in the 18- to 23-year-old age range.
"We have a good number of students who show up at 7:30 a.m., and don't leave campus until 5:30 p.m.," she said. "Obviously they have breaks in between, so its appropriate to have something like this for their use ... they can work out a little stress during the day."
With 7,400 students enrolled this semester, LFCC saw a 30 percent increase in the student population over the last three years. Additionally, LFCC has been ranked No. 32 out of the top 50 fastest growing community colleges in the nation, as well as the No. 1 fastest growing community college in the state for the 2011-2012 school year.
"We still expect to grow, just hopefully at a more manageable rate," Thompson-Stacy said. When she became president four years ago, Thompson-Stacy said she didn't expect such growth, and therefore didn't see a student center in LFCC's future.
"But now it just makes sense," she said. "It's very exciting."
To finance the $10 million-project, Thompson-Stacy said the LFCC Education Foundation is borrowing money from two banks, which will be repaid over a 10-year period using income from the center's food service, book store, and possibly from renting the facility out to other entities.
Additionally, the school is looking to raise $3 million to help with the cost.
"We've got a lot of naming opportunities available, like a classroom or even the whole building," she said.
The 20-acre property will be built on land owned by the Educational Foundation, and is located north of LFCC's Science and Health Professions Building.
Once complete, the facility will be open to students, as well as school employees, at no additional cost.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org