Construction for convocation center begins this summer
On June 3, the University of North Georgia (UNG) will break ground on a long-awaited convocation center at the Dahlonega Campus that will replace the smaller, outdated Memorial Hall as the university's primary event center when it opens in 2018.
"We are really excited about the new convocation center for UNG, as it will be a transformational facility for UNG," Mac McConnell, UNG's senior vice president for business and finance, said. "With a seating capacity of up to 3,600, the new, multifunction building will fill the needs of our growing institution much better than the 56-year-old Memorial Hall. It also will be easily accessed from the Morrison Moore Parkway to serve the north Georgia region."
UNG's Memorial Hall was constructed in 1960 with a fixed-seating capacity of 1,049. Enrollment at then-North Georgia College was only 794 students. Today, UNG serves a growing enrollment of more than 17,000 students across five campuses and is one of the state's largest public universities. Enrollment on the Dahlonega Campus alone has increased to more than 7,000 students.
Memorial Hall currently supports more than 500 separate events and activities each year, to include academic courses, student activities, military training and assemblies, special events, and NCAA Division II athletic programs.
As the center for social, academic and athletic events on campus, the convocation center will be a versatile venue that can bring the university community together.
The convocation center will be located in the southwest zone of the Dahlonega Campus, just off Morrison Moore Parkway. The 103,000-square foot facility will serve multiple uses, including academic courses, physical training activities, and university events such as commencement ceremonies, athletic events and meetings. The center also will have several classrooms and faculty offices in addition to the multiuse areas.
The 38,600-square-foot concourse level, where the facility entry will be located, surrounds and overlooks the event area, providing views of the activity taking place below. The concourse level also will include several of the facility's classrooms and multipurpose areas.
From the concourse level, guests to the facility go down into the nearly 57,000-square-foot event level of the convocation center, which will include both fixed and collapsible seating in the main event area and several classrooms, labs and dressing rooms.
A third, lower level of the facility includes a little less than 7,000 square feet of faculty offices and storage space. On the exterior, plans include both entry and student plazas and landscaping and walkways to connect the facility to the existing UNG Alumni House, located nearby, and parking areas.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved plans for the Convocation Center in 2014, and, with leadership from north Georgia legislators, including Sen. Steve Gooch and Rep. Kevin Tanner, UNG received funding support through the state legislature of $3.5 million for planning and design funds in 2015 and $29.3 million in construction funding this year. The facility is expected to open by 2018.
Additional private funding also is being sought for the new facility. Jeffrey Tarnowski, UNG's vice president for advancement, said $2.5 million is needed for the athletics areas of the convocation center.
"While we are thrilled and honored to have this incredible facility coming to our campus, we also know that private and corporate support is going to be imperative if we are going to have full use of it for our athletic teams," Tarnowski said. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to raise $2.5 million through the help of UNG's dedicated alumni and supporters, whose love, pride and passion for this institution are second to none."
In addition to supporting the needs of typical universities, this new facility is critical to UNG's role as one of only six Senior Military Colleges in the United States. UNG's nearly 800-member Corps of Cadets and more than 150 active students in the Georgia Army National Guard detachment on UNG's Dahlonega Campus need expanded military training and assembly space.
Additionally, Memorial Hall will be renovated to provide enhanced classroom capability, more restrooms and an elevator.
The public is invited to the 1 p.m. ceremonial groundbreaking celebration on June 3. From Morrison Moore Parkway West in Dahlonega, turn onto Alumni Drive and follow the event signs.