Montana State University

Proposed Romney Hall renovation to add needed classrooms to Montana State University

December 19, 2016 -- MSU News Service

Romney Hall design showing the third of four levels in the building post-renovation of the 2017 Legislature funds the project. This level shows five classrooms including a 300+ seat classroom in the round. Complete designs can be viewed at www.montana.edu/romney

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Seeking funding from the Montana Legislature to create 18 classrooms with more than 1,000 classroom seats in Romney Hall, Montana State University is publishing detailed plans of the project for public view.

“MSU has a critical need for more classroom space,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “We have grown 33 percent in the last 10 years, becoming the largest, fastest-growing university in the state. Not only do we have more students, but they are enrolling in more credits than ever before at MSU. Romney Hall sits in the heart of campus with only 140 seats in four inadequate classrooms currently. There are thousands of square feet which are unusable for educating our students.”

In addition to expanding capacity from four to 18 classrooms, a renovated Romney Hall would also contain math, writing and veteran’s centers.

“We at MSU are committed to helping our students stay in school and graduate in a timely manner. We have evidence that these centers make a tangible difference in our students’ academic performance,” Cruzado said.

Since July, MSU staff, aided by CTA Architects, have been moving the planning and design forward. MSU is investing $1.7 million from its reserve funds to advance the project.

“This advance planning and design accomplishes two important goals,” Cruzado said. “First, it will allow us to break ground nearly six months earlier should we receive funding. Secondly, it gives the public a chance to see in detail what is needed and to give us their valuable input.”

Plans for the renovation of Romney Hall can be viewed or downloaded as a pdf at www.montana.edu/romney.

“For five years, MSU has been asking the legislature to help us repurpose Romney Hall by supporting this $28 million project. The public has a legitimate interest in seeing how we propose to use that money. Anyone looking at these design plans will see that Romney Hall will be transformed into what our students need most: classrooms, classrooms, classrooms,” Cruzado said.

Parts of Romney Hall are currently occupied by ROTC as well as offices and research laboratories for the College of Education, Health and Human Development. In order to fully utilize the building for classrooms, those units must be moved. Part of the overall construction cost – approximately $6 million – is to provide new facilities for ROTC and the College of Education, Health and Human Development.

“Originally opened as a gym in 1922, Romney Hall is an unusual building in its layout and design,” said Dan Stevenson, associate vice president of University Services. “The design team has found that we can add an additional 13,000 square feet of classrooms, study space and other space in the building by creating floors where there are currently two-story tall gym spaces. We are squeezing every square foot we can out of Romney Hall for our students.”

The design includes classrooms that are the same as some of the university's most heavily-used classroom spaces, particularly those used for math and writing instruction. Additionally, the renovation will create only the second 300-seat lecture hall on campus. Gaines Hall 101, the campus’ current 300-seat hall, is booked close to 100 percent of the time and used frequently on weekends.

The Associated Students of MSU Senate unanimously passed a resolution supporting legislative funding for the renovation of Romney Hall.

“I’ll personally give a tour to any legislator interested in the project,” said ASMSU President Garrett Leach. “I am confident the need for renovation will be clear.”

The repurposing of Romney Hall is the number one priority of the Montana University System and has been approved by the Montana Board of Regents. It was one part of a comprehensive state-wide infrastructure bill that failed to win approval in the 2015 Legislature and has been included in the legislative long range building plan since 2013.

“The renovation of Romney Hall remains the top infrastructure priority of the Montana University System, and it is the system’s only infrastructure request this session,” said Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clay Christian.

“The last time the Legislature provided infrastructure funding to our campuses was in 2013, and we are very grateful for the monies that were provided to the University of Montana, Montana Tech, UM Western, MSU Northern, MSU Billings and Great Falls College MSU, but no state dollars have been provided to the MSU Bozeman campus since 2009,” Christian said.

“Romney Hall isn’t a project to take care of future growth, it’s to meet needs the campus has right now and has had for many years,” Christian said. “MSU will have even more students by the time Romney could open post-renovation in 2020, nearly eight years and thousands of students after it was first requested.”

Since 2010, MSU has raised $218 million to meet its campus infrastructure needs. None of those dollars have come from state or local taxpayers. All of the funding has either been through private donors or bonds being repaid with student and user fees.

“MSU has the greatest number of Montana residents attending in its 123-year history, coming from all 56 counties,” Cruzado said. “The repurposing and renovation of Romney Hall is truly an investment that will benefit all of Montana for generations to come.” 

Contact: Tracy Ellig, executive director of communications, Montana State University, tellig@montana.edu; (406)-994-5607.