College must be maintained, expanded

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Long and slender, the McCook Community College campus covers a four square block area, stretching from the Ralph G. Brooks Residence Hall between L and M on East First Street to the Wrightstone and Walsh-Brady buildings on East Fifth Street.

But what about the future? Where does McCook Community College go from here?

That was the question put before groups of students, staff members, community leaders and college foundation members last week by the Mid-Plains College board, administration and a team of architects planning for the future.

Since the college is bounded by park land and residential areas, the advisory groups said the architects, Alley Poyner of Omaha, would have to be innovative to come up with building solutions for the future.

Topping the list of suggestions was development of a college theater and arts program in downtown McCook. While eight blocks away from the main college campus, the Fox Theater in the 400 block of Norris Avenue offers an excellent opportunity for the college to expand theatrical and arts programs, according to the community participants.

An effort is in progress to make the theater project a reality. A convention center committee is working on a plan to tie the theater renovation with updating of the Keystone Hotel, which is located next door.

Because a community effort is already under way, college officials were encouraged to participate, with the goal of securing access to theater facilities in the process.

Looking further into the future, those attending the college brainstorming sessions said the rebuilding of the True Hall Gymnasium will be needed before too many years pass by. The second oldest building on campus -- behind only the recently renovated McMillen Hall -- True Hall is short on seating and auxiliary classroom and workout space.

To make use of the already existing gymnasium, the MCC physical plant director, Jon Burkey, suggested using the current True Hall gymnasium and building on another gym as well as other facilities to the east. The project could be patterned after an events center project which is being talked about in North Platte.

Another idea -- which may have to be addressed -- is use of Weiland Field for something other than a football field. Although a nostalgic symbol of community life, the stadium is aging and the facility is little used other than for high school football games.

Lots to think about, but it's good that the college has started the discussion. The campus of McCook Community College is a source of pride, and needs to be maintained -- and expanded -- as the college grows.

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