Norwich University invests over $40 million in improvements
By Eric Blaisdell
STAFF WRITER | April 19,2013
NORTHFIELD — Norwich University is awash in construction as it’s in the process of completing $41 million worth of improvements to its campus.
The school is currently building a new dormitory, biomass heating plant and athletic field. It is also installing new underground data and power lines and will be renovating an existing dorm this summer after commencement. The construction is part of the school’s master plan, which includes another as-of-yet unscheduled new dorm building and renovations to the school’s academic buildings that it hopes to complete by 2019, the school’s 200th anniversary.
“The buildings and grounds are a physical manifestation of the strength of the university,” said David Magida, the school’s chief administrative officer. “Norwich is strong, we’re healthy. As a result, we are able to do these things to improve life on campus.”
Magida said the $25 million dormitory will add 286 beds to the campus. Of those, 100 will be used to reduce the overcrowding that Magida said is currently affecting campus life. The rest of the beds will be used for new residential students, either students new to the school or students currently enrolled who are living off-campus.
Magida said the dorm is expected to be open by August 2014. The dorm’s construction is being paid for by a low-interest loan from an alumnus of the school, whose name has not been released, according to Daphne Larkin, the school’s assistant director of communications.
The dorm will allow Norwich to accept more students. Larkin says the school has had to cap enrollment for the past three years, a new phenomenon for the university even though it has become more competitive. Admissions standards have risen for applicants for both the SAT — the country’s widely used college entrance exam — and for secondary school grade point averages. Larkin said the school currently has around 2,200 students enrolled — 1,500 of them in the Corps of Cadets and 700 civilians.
Sabine Field is also undergoing a $5.8 million renovation highlighted by the installation a new state-of-the-art artificial turf surface, new lighting, seating and a new sound system. Magida said the turf will allow the field to be used nearly year-round because it can be plowed in the winter. The current natural turf, of course, can’t be used in the winter because of the snow, and Magita said the natural grass field historically is in rough shape after the fall season is done. The new playing surface will hold up much better, especially after the punishment it takes during football games.
The company that makes the new turf material, Shaw Sports Turf, touts its product as being used on the fields of such National Football League teams as the Super Bowl champion Balitmore Ravens, the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The new field will be used for football, soccer, lacrosse and other events, whereas the old field was only used for football and some cadet events.
The field is expected to be ready to use on Sept. 1.
The money for the field and the $850,000 installation of upgraded underground data and powerlines next to the field came from the school’s recently completed fundraising campaign, “Bearing the Torch,” which raised $24 million in three years.
A $6.2 million biomass plant is being built adjacent to the school’s current oil burning plant. Magida said the new plant will save the school around $1 million in heating costs per year. The plant will also replace the school’s annual fuel oil consumption of some 657,000 gallons with just under 13,000 tons of wood chips per year.
“Right now, we are completely subservient to one fuel source. If there was a disruption to the fuel market or a huge spike in fuel costs, we’d have no other alternative,” he said, adding all of the woodchips will come from trees within 100 miles of the school.