University of Pittsburgh
March 4, 1999

TEXT OF CAMPUS UPDATE BY CHANCELLOR MARK A. NORDENBERG Re: Facilities Planning, Student Life Enhancement and Pitt Stadium Site March 3, 1999

Contact:  412-624-4147

As we all know from experience, progress most often requires both hard work and tough decisions - and in the last few years, this University has seen plenty of both. People throughout the institution have displayed determination, as well as talent, as we have pursued our collective mission. And, at every level, we have become more accustomed to making the difficult choices that permit us to advance priorities in a world of finite resources. It is instructive that the broadest of University goals, approved by our Board of Trustees three years ago last month, include both statements of aspiration - such as the directive that we aggressively pursue excellence in undergraduate education - and acknowledgments of our limitations - such as the reminder that our pursuit of quality can be successfully advanced only if we ensure operational effectiveness and efficiency.

The successes forged in promoting excellence in our undergraduate programs have been a source of particular pride. In the last three years, we have seen a measurable strengthening of our applicant pool and even more frequent examples of high achievement from within our student body. We have worked to make our fine academic programs even stronger. And, recognizing that much growth - particularly at the undergraduate level - occurs outside the classroom, we have placed special emphasis on student life developments. These have ranged from massive technological upgrades to new recreational facilities to enhanced counseling and residence life programs. Here in Pittsburgh, we also have creatively advanced the concept of "the City as our campus" - negotiating a "no fare" contract for public transportation and facilitating student access to a broad range of cultural opportunities through the PittArts program.

Among the most notable accomplishments of our "cost effectiveness and efficiency initiatives" was the development of a ten-year facilities plan. That effort was driven by the overarching desire to make certain that our investments in facilities advanced academic priorities and met other important institutional needs, such as additional student recreational space and increased on-campus housing. And that effort was mindful of the fact that both additional debt service and increases to annual building operation and maintenance costs can have a direct and dramatic impact on the resources that otherwise might be available for more traditional forms of personnel and programmatic support.

The Commonwealth commitment of $138 million to University capital projects, announced by Governor Ridge just a little more than one year ago, has made it possible for us to plan realistically to move forward with a number of important projects. On the Oakland campus, examples of planned improvements involving significant levels of Commonwealth support include construction of the long-awaited convocation and multi-purpose academic centers, the expansion of Hillman Library and the renovation of Eberly Hall. When these initiatives are combined with such other projects as the construction of the Bouquet Gardens residence halls and the renovation of the Masonic Temple, the resulting package represents an important step in the transformation of the Oakland campus - and projects of similar impact are planned for our regional campuses as well.

In the more recent past, of course, the allocation of Commonwealth funds to non-University construction projects also has created the foundation for what many are calling the next "regional renaissance." This includes both the expansion of the existing convention center and the construction of two new stadiums, one for football and one for baseball, on the North Side. At a time when partnerships of all types are more important than ever and when resources are more commonly shared, it has been our responsibility to creatively and deliberately explore the ways in which these projects might create special opportunities - benefitting both the University and the region.

A process of preliminary exploration has been underway for a period of months. Our efforts became more focused when that became possible - when state funding recently was approved and the uncertainties that had surrounded these regional initiatives were removed. Our own work is ongoing, and there are issues yet to be resolved, but our goal is to bring these efforts to a timely conclusion.

We embarked on this process knowing that certain of the alternatives presented - most particularly the possibility of moving our football games to the world-class facility soon to be built on the North Side - would prompt a negative response, grounded principally in emotion, from some. In fact, being both traditionalists and fans ourselves, my administrative colleagues and I know those feelings well, and they have been a constant point of reference in our discussions. At the same time, we cannot responsibly permit those feelings, however understandable and well-intentioned, to preempt our reasoned evaluation of other relevant considerations.

The considerations most frequently discussed in public relate to the future of the football program itself - and there the balance seems clearest. Despite the memorable moments that many of us can associate with past games played at Pitt Stadium, the facility itself is no longer an asset to the program. Instead, by virtually any standard of measure, it is no longer "in the same league" as the stadiums of our competitors, whether measured by the impressions of recruits or the expectations of fans. Comparatively speaking, games are not well attended, and those fans present on game-day not only miss out on the amenities that have become customary in most modern stadiums but must struggle for access to even basic facilities. Those loyal supporters who not only choose to meet that challenge on a regular basis but who may consider those characteristics of the facility to be part of its charm deserve a great deal of credit. Unfortunately, they are not, and never have been, a very large group.

But for an institution whose most fundamental mission is providing opportunities for growth to tens of thousands of students on a daily basis, the most important considerations are far broader. On the one hand, we know that football games played in the center of campus can add to a sense of "school spirit," particularly within the student body - and, in no small measure through the efforts of our Athletic Director, we have seen more of that in the last two years. On the other hand, the chance to "reclaim" ten acres of prime space in the middle of an urban campus could present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the quality of campus life, particularly for our students, 365 days a year and not just on six football Saturdays.

Having no real sense of what might fit within the "foot print" of the Stadium, I asked our architects to provide some idea of what might be done with that space. Their response included the following:

• moving the convocation center from a comparatively inaccessible site at the very top of the hill to a location closer to the "heart of campus," enhancing its attractiveness for all types of events and increasing the likelihood that it will become one of the centers of campus life;

• providing space within that facility for a major recreation center to be used by the general student population, something that would not be possible in the space available at the top of the hill;

• substantially mitigating, if not totally eliminating, the parking and traffic concerns of our neighbors;

• freeing space, within the borders of that site, to construct virtually all of the additional on-campus student housing that we project we will need, again not only advancing an announced institutional priority but also addressing a long-standing community concern; and

• still having the ability to leave a significant portion of the site open and "green," in the process adding to the overall sense of campus and creating an attractive and badly needed link between our "upper" and "lower" campuses.

Among other things, as a part of our overall assessment, we now are involved in the process of determining whether or not these conceptual campus improvements can be made realities, financially and in other practical terms.

These are important issues that will continue to receive the attention that they deserve. As I have noted, there are matters yet to be resolved. However, the further that we have progressed with our analysis, the clearer it has become that we are exploring opportunities that could have a very positive, substantial and lasting affect on the University of Pittsburgh. As you would expect, we fully intend to press forward with our work and will provide additional information when it is possible and appropriate to do so.