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Campus team to run programming exercise for power-plant-based activity/rec center

January 30, 2012

the powerhouse

It has been called the college’s “worst kept secret” for more than a year—this dream of putting a campus activity and recreation center inside the decommissioned Alliant power plant (which sits riverside on Pleasant Street, opposite Flood Arena). As of this week, there are those at the college who are finally saying out loud what they’ve been whispering about: this project deserves a serious, and closer, look.

With this interest now out in the open, a group of students, faculty, and staff has been asked to run a programming exercise aimed at figuring out what the college would want out of such a facility, one that is roughly the size of the Center for the Sciences. In his charge to the group (attached at top, right of this page), President Scott Bierman reminded the members that their job is to help the campus think seriously about the prospects and to discover the possibilities.

“The college has not yet committed to building a new activity and recreational facility,” he reminded them in the document. “The efforts of this work team will help us understand whether, in fact, the college should make such a commitment.”

Led by Dean of Students Christina Klawitter, the team will be canvassing campus in the days and weeks ahead. Armed with a set of questions developed at their initial meeting, the two Beloit College students, six staffers, and two faculty members will be polling individuals and groups, day and night.

“We want to know what you want in an activity and recreation center; what you’d put in a space like
that,” says Isaac Bamgbose’13, one of two students on the investigation team. “It would need to be more than just another box of a building labeled for fitness. It would need to a place where people can come together. But to do what? That’s what we want to know.”  

The team members

In addition to Klawitter and Bamgbose, the members of the campus community who have been asked to lead this conversation are:

·         Jenna Larsen’14, a sophomore and women’s basketball player from Orfordville, Wis

·         Bill Flanagan, executive advisor to the president

·         Scott Lyngaas, assistant professor of modern languages and literatures (French)

·         Britt Scharringhausen, assistant professor of physics and astronomy

·         Jennie Hartzheim, director of student engagement and leadership

·         Peggy Carl, director of athletics and recreation

·         Tim Schmeichen, associate athletic director and men’s soccer head coach

·         Jason Hughes, director of communications and marketing

The team is being supported by local consultant Dan Schooff.

What is the Alliant building?

Owned and long operated by Alliant Energy, the former power plant was decommissioned a few years ago. It’s no longer producing power (the small hydroelectric dam to its south is actually owned by another entity). The site was originally home to a paper mill, but was reborn as a power plant in the early part of the 20th century. As evidenced by this archival photo, the smokestacks on the site have long been a fixture of the college’s (and city’s) skyline.   

Why now?

As noted above, the building is no longer in use as a power plant and Alliant is in the process of determining what to do with the building and site. President Bierman and others have already had informal discussions with Alliant about their plans and the college’s potential interest.

What’s next?

“We need to see what kind of services and spaces our students, faculty, and staff want and need,” says Klawitter, who is overseeing the team, which meets weekly.

The group’s work will conclude by April. At that point, the college expects to recruit an architecture firm to take the feedback gathered and do a preliminary design aimed at best accommodating the community’s dreams and desires.

President Bierman told Academic Senate on Wednesday, Jan. 25, that if all goes well, the college will have a better idea of what is needed, a better sense of what it might cost, and therefore a more solid case to take to the Board of Trustees and potential donors. Early estimates suggest the project would require $30 million in support. The college, Bierman said, will not (and cannot) take on debt for the project. It would have to be fully funded by donors.

Want your opinion heard?

Contact Dean Klawitter at to schedule an individual or group meeting. Students can also sign up to be a part of a so-called “Living Focus Group” that will be polled online each week for six weeks. Interested? Contact Jason Hughes, director of communications (and a member of the programming team), at