Texas Wesleyan, with help from everybody, breaks ground on $19 million university center

Texas Wesleyan University Fort Worth Nick and Lou Martin

Texas Wesleyan University broke ground this afternoon on a long-dreamed-of $19 million university center in the heart of the East Side campus that President Fred Slabach has called a “gamechanger” for the school.

The 44,000-square-foot center will house admissions, game and study lounges, food court, university bookstore, student meeting rooms and student affairs offices, a 300-person ballroom, and outdoor plaza and amphitheater. University leaders want it to anchor campus visits for prospective students, serve as an event venue for alumni and community groups that now have to meet elsewhere, and continue to drive revitalization in the surrounding Poly neighborhood.

But chiefly, the university center, to open in summer 2019 and be built by the Fort Worth general contracting firm Byrne Construction, is meant to deepen the student experience, Slabach told a crowd of more than 200 donors, civic and community members, and faculty, staff and students at the ground-breaking.

“Students who are as engaged with the university outside of the classroom as they are inside the classroom are much more likely to persist to graduation,” Slabach said.

The university completed kicked off the fundraising for the center with a lead gift two years ago from the Fort Worth philanthropists Nick and Lou Martin, and wrapped up the campaign in December. The center, designed by the Bennett Benner Partners architecture firm, will bear the name Nick and Lou Martin University Center.

The Martins and their young grandson Wyatt Campbell led the groundbreaking, with Lou Martin and Wyatt (picture) sitting behind the controls of an earth mover that ceremonially broke ground. Slabach then asked the crowd to line up around the rectangular footprint of the planned building, and counted down toward a mass ground-breaking, each participant given a small keepsake shovel to use.

The center, part of the university’s master plan, is the latest move by the university to improve East Rosedale Street between the university and its U.S. 287 gateway.

The university has already spent $6.5 million to build four key pieces of the “Rosedale Renaissance,” including a university “front door” with entryway and clock tower; United Methodist Church Central Texas Conference Service Center and bishop’s offices; renovated Polytechnic Firehouse, home to the university art department; and improvements on streets adjacent to campus that lever $32 million in public improvements to East Rosedale.

The university also plans apartments on East Rosedale, a football field and stadium, and improvements to the Sycamore Park field where the Texas Wesleyan baseball team plays.