A Dallas-based architecture group will complete a study on Strahan Coliseum by the end of the month to determine whether the facility can be expanded to better accomodate crowds for commencement ceremonies.
Juan Guerra, associate vice president of Facilities, said the Moody-Nolan architecture firm is conducting an expansion feasibility study to provide cost efficient plans for the construction of more seats in the arena. During the study, firm officials are reconfiguring the current seating arrangement and evaluating possible expansions for the coliseum, Guerra said.
Guerra said the study will be completed by the end of this month, and Moody-Nolan will provide proposed options for construction at the coliseum. Facilities will take a few weeks to review the proposed options and then submit one for a final report to Provost Eugene Bourgeois and President Denise Trauth for approval.
Guerra said he estimates a final report including details of the selected expansion plan to be put out at the end of November. The Texas State University System Board of Regents will cast votes for final approval during their May 2014 meeting, he said.
Strahan Coliseum currently seats 7,500 people. The current occupancy limit is adequate for sporting events such as basketball and volleyball games because the crowds are not as large as those during graduation ceremonies, Guerra said.
“So when you’re watching a basketball game you know that’s pretty comfortable, but when you’re dealing with commencement and you’ve got 9,000 to 10,000 people coming to see their sons and daughters graduate, we can’t get everyone into the coliseum,” Guerra said.
According to Kristin McDaniel, commencement coordinator for the Office of Curriculum Services, there were 3,094 graduates in spring 2012, 2,302 graduates in fall 2012 and in 1,461 graduates in summer 2012. In spring 2013, the number of graduates increased to 3,403 and currently 2,849 candidates have applied for graduation for this fall, McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the university estimates an average of 10 individuals will attend the commencement ceremony for each graduation candidate. Oftentimes the candidates will bring more or less than the estimated amount of guests, which varies between the different commencement ceremonies, McDaniel said.
According to Debbie Thorne, associate vice president of Academic Affairs, the university established an “overflow room” in Jowers Center’s Gym 102 in May because there was not enough seating in the arena for last spring’s commencement ceremonies. Thorne said the gym can seat 800 to 1,000 people, and they will be able to watch the live-streamed ceremony on a large screen.
“What is really interesting about the overflow rooms is no one was upset,” Thorne said. “When we did the singing of the national anthem, people actually stood up even though they were in the overflow room.”
Thorne said the university has a high graduation rate, and it is expected to increase due to the continuing increase of enrollment. As a result, more seating will need to be available at some point, she said.
“We realize that our main constraint is the coliseum, and we obviously don’t have anywhere else on campus or anywhere else in San Marcos that can seat more than 7,500 people or so,” Thorne said.
Thorne said the university announced there will be a seventh commencement ceremony in May 2014 as opposed to the six ceremonies typically held in the past. Thorne estimates some ceremonies this December will exceed the maximum occupancy, so an “overflow room” will most likely be needed.
Thorne said since the university first discussed providing an additional commencement ceremony, there has been an effort to expand Strahan Coliseum to allow more guests to attend the ceremony. Thorne said the university does not want to limit attendees by implementing a ticket system as other universities have done.
“As an institution, we really value friends and family being a part of graduation, so we really don’t like the idea of turning people away at the door,” Thorne said.