Baker plans to expand campus grounds


Story by Brenna Thompson, News Editor

Within the next six-to-eight months, Baker officials plan to purchase property that is currently owned by the Baldwin City USD 348 school district.

The land in question is the large lot north of Gessner Hall on Chapel Street and two metal buildings behind Denious Hall.

“The thought process behind acquiring that property has actually been a conversation we have had for three or four years,” Andy Jett, vice president of strategic planning and academic resources, said,

He recently sent a letter to school district officials letting them know Baker was interested in the land.

“It’s not that we have anything ready to go or be built on that land, but there might be other people interested in it in the future,” Jett said. “We want to make sure we have some flexibility when we do determine we want to expand the campus.”

Until this month, Baker had considered helping to fund a community recreation facility that would have been open to all Baker students. This facility could have been built on the lot north of Gessner Hall.

Baldwin City Recreation Commission Director Steve Friend said Baker initially agreed to be a partner with his commission and Baldwin City in order to build a community recreation center. However, due to conflicting needs, Baker administrators withdrew from the agreement.

Friend said part of the issue with Baker was an emphasis on access for public school students after regular school hours.

“The gym access would be limited. I would have team practices from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. November to February during basketball season,” Friend said.

Friend said Baker’s decision to withdraw has limited his budget and made the funding process more difficult.

“The difference would be instead of having 800-some students come and be automatic members and have income I could count on, I have to sell memberships,” Friend said. “I won’t get as much income, so I can’t spend as much on the facility.”

Without the Baker commitment, Friend and the Recreation Commission decided to revert back to their original first choice, land next to the Baldwin City High School, creating availability for Baker to independently purchase the land north of Gessner Hall.

Dean of Students Cassy Bailey agrees with Baker’s intended purchase and believes it will be a good thing for Baker University.

“I’m very much in favor of owning that land so it gives us some opportunity,” Bailey said. “I think it’s a really good idea for universities to purchase land around to use as a buffer, not only for growth but also to keep the university grounds as you wish.”

Any possible construction projects will not begin immediately, and there is no certainty about what the land will be used for.

Jett said there are many ideas, but nothing has formed into any concrete plan.

“The purchase will allow us to have that space when we are ready to grow the campus,” Jett said.

Many sources have different ideas of what the campus needs in terms of growth. For example, Bailey would be extremely excited to see a new athletic facility built.

She said many other universities similar to Baker have impressive athletic facilities, and it would be another way to make Baker even better.

Jett said there are two processes that have to happen before the land is officially owned by Baker University. The first is negotiating with the school district. Earlier this month, representatives from Baker University and USD 348 met to start the formal process.

The second phase will involve the decision of what would go onto the land.

“Once we go through that, and if it’s successful, then the people who will make the decision as to what goes onto that property will be the people inside the institution,” Jett said.