Baylor welcome center

A rendering shows possible designs for the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center at Baylor University, one of the projects that will be funded by Baylor’s new $1.1 billion fundraising campaign.

Baylor University is starting a $1.1 billion fundraising campaign intended to extend the campus footprint, add athletic infrastructure and elevate the university’s academic profile.

Known as “Give Light: The Campaign for Baylor,” the plan calls for $500 million in new endowed funds, $300 million for capital projects and another $300 million in general funds. One of the most visible aspects will be a new visitor center at the corner of Interstate 35 and University Parks Drive, the former site of the Ivy Square shopping center.

Baylor administrators are also setting the table for a new basketball facility to replace the Ferrell Center. The new facility would have 6,500 to 7,000 seats, Vice President for Advancement David Rosselli said. That represents about a 3,000 seat decrease from the Ferrell Center, which has hosted basketball games since 1988.

The visitor center will be known as the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center. Officials say the building, named after Baylor regent and Oracle Corp. CEO Mark Hurd and his wife, Paula, will be a 50,000- to 60,000-square-foot complex meant to attract prospective students, parents, visitors and anyone else traversing I-35.

“In my estimation, it’ll be the new hub of campus,” Rosselli said.

Baylor Hurd

A field at University Parks Drive and Interstate 35 that has been vacant since 2010 is slated to house the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center at Baylor University.

Baylor Hurd

The Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center, planned at University Parks Drive and Interstate 35, is part of a newly announced $1.1 billion fundraising campaign at Baylor University.

The university did not announce the value of the donation from the Hurds, who were the lead donors of Baylor’s outdoor tennis facility.

“As they have on many occasions, Mark and Paula have stepped forward as champions of excellence and as shining lights for the vital role Baylor plays in higher education as a Christian research university,” Baylor President Linda Livingstone wrote in a statement.

The $500 million in endowed funds would lead to a slew of endowed chairs and professorships. Last week, the university announced Mark and Jennifer McCollum gave $3.5 million for an endowed chair of data sciences in Baylor’s school of engineering and computer science. That is part of an $11.5 million commitment from the McCollums, and Mark McCollum is also a regent.

Such gifts are part of Livingstone’s “Illuminate” academic plan to effectively double Baylor’s $1.3 billion endowment, expand graduate and doctoral programs and increase research spending. The goal is to reach tier-one status, as defined by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which indicates the top level of research universities and a source of local economic growth. Officials have said Baylor could reach that goal in a decade.

A rendering of the welcome center shows a multi-story facility with outdoor seating and a sign along University Parks Drive. A groundbreaking date has not been set, Baylor spokesman Jason Cook said. The next steps include planning and architectural work.

More elements could sit adjacent to the welcome center. Officials have discussed a boutique hotel, a grocery store and a spirit shop as possible additions. Rosselli said Baylor is about a year away from deciding what to place there.

Baylor Hurd

A field at University Parks Drive and Interstate 35 that has been vacant since 2010 is slated to house the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center at Baylor University.

The campaign includes improvements to the Tidwell Bible Building, which mostly holds religion and history courses and faculty offices, and space for students, faculty and staff of the honors college.

As for the athletics department, the football program is slated to have its own facility built near the practice field. Enhancements to the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center will be made for the non-football sports.

More than $541 million of the $1.1 billion plan, including $346 million in pledges, has already been raised. Rosselli said.

“That is a significant number toward our overall goal,” Rosselli said. “The Baylor family has been extremely resilient and faithful through some difficult, challenging years, as you know. But to be at that number, given where the institution has been over the last several years, is remarkable.”

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Phillip Ericksen joined the Tribune-Herald in March 2015 as a sports copy editor. That November, he joined the news team. He has covered higher education, city hall, politics and crime.

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