After nearly 60 years of use, Southern Oregon University plans to overhaul and renovate McNeal Pavilion in a big way.

The revamped McNeal Pavilion will have improved seismic safety, easier access for students with disabilities, will solve general issues that have beleaguered the facility as it as aged. Locker rooms will be smaller, but the updated building will still have a competition gym of the same size and a number of classrooms. In addition to a remodel of McNeal itself, SOU will be building a state-of-the-art recreation center. The rec center will boast a modern fitness center, equipment checkout for students, an indoor running track, group exercise rooms, racquetball courts and more.

The McNeal Pavilion, originally constructed in 1956, is no stranger to refurbishments. In 1998, the main gymnasium floor was entirely resurfaced with cutting-edge materials to minimize the number of joint injuries suffered by student-athletes. The restoration also allowed for the addition of 550 new seats in the gymnasium.

But this remodeling project will be bigger and better than any preceding it. Drew Gilliland, director of facilities management and planning at SOU, stated that the project would be financed by two different pools of money: $21.3 million in state bonds for the McNeal Pavilion and $17.7 million in student fees for the new recreational center. And a project of such a tremendous scale also means SOU students are in for quite a wait: the new facilities are expected to be open in the fall of 2017.

The ongoing construction has displaced winter sports teams and even some classes from their usual venue. SOU’s basketball and volleyball teams utilize high school facilities throughout Ashland and Medford to host their home games, while classes typically held in the McNeal Pavilion have been temporarily relocated to the Cascade Complex, a now-defunct dormitory.

Even though there is a considerable wait ahead of them, students are excited to use the contemporary facilities once they open. “It’s a little disappointing that the new recreational center won’t be open for a few years,” said Kelli Groves, a freshman at SOU, “but I’m still excited that we’ll have a brand-new facility to use once it’s up and running.”

Demolition at the McNeal Pavilion, including its pool, began this week. The pool will not be replaced. A group of area swimmers, many of whom used the McNeal facility, have formed a group called the Southern Oregon Aquatics Committee to promote building a new pool facility elsewhere.

Tidings intern Samantha Bruce is a student at Southern Oregon University.