LHU’s vision coming to fruition

LOCK HAVEN – Lock Haven University’s vision of enhancing its East Campus in the city by creating indoor space for job fairs, shows and community events – and converting an old high school gymnasium into a multi-sport athletic complex for student-athletes – took a huge step Thursday.

That’s because the state announced a second $1 million capital grant to the university from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

The project involves renovating a section of the East Campus, which is the former Lock Haven High School, creating additional indoor event space for job fairs, art shows, food fairs, other community events and establishing a multi-sport athletic complex.

“With this second award of $1 million in the past year, the East Campus renovation is closer to fruition,” said state Rep. Mike Hanna Sr. in announcing the grant.

Gov. Tom Wolf followed with a press conference in Scranton on Thursday afternoon to announce the LHU award and others across Pennsylvania.

LHU President Robert Pignatello also chimed in through LHU’s own press release yesterday, saying that “As a result of this additional funding they… are closer to having expanded access to athletic, recreation, and community-based activities that will improve their overall educational experience and give us more opportunities to be a location for community events and programs for the residents of the area.”

The total cost of the renovation at the campus bounded by West Church and West Main streets is estimated at more than $9 million.

The university envisions financing the investment through a combination of grants, university funds and private donations, school officials had said.

According to the press release, the process is already in motion as LHU declared that planning and design is underway for the multi-sport athletic complex. The plans include the installation of new HVAC system, replacing bleachers, installing locker room and shower facilities, and placing new multi-sport court flooring to support uses by multiple teams.

Part of the project will involve some demolition of current facilities that were part of the old high school.

Pignatello gave special thanks to The LHU Foundation who “played a vital role in this (project) and is to be commended for their continued support.” He also extended his “sincere thanks to Rep. Mike Hanna” for his support in securing grants and financial aid to this expansion.

“These awards are extremely competitive. As a Lock Haven High School and LHU graduate myself, I am excited for the redevelopment of this building and look forward to it serving students and our community for years to come. LHU, Lock Haven City and Clinton County as a whole will see the benefits from this investment,” Hanna said.

It was right before Christmas 2017 when the first $1 million grant was announced.

Since then, it appears the entire project has evolved. When first announced, there was talk of a wrestling center as a means of boosting the university’s legacy as a national wrestling power. LHU had two finalists in the NCAA Division I wrestling championships last season and its team is ranked nationally.

Meanwhile, the west side of the East Campus building houses a state-of-the-art science center, bustling with students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The first floor houses geology, physics and nanotechnology. The second floor consists of biology, faculty offices, and a large auditorium-style classroom, while the third floor accommodates chemistry and three large classrooms. Labs, located on each floor, have state-of- the-art workstations that are fully wired for research and learning.

The multi-million dollar Science Center, completed in 2012, was funded primarily by state government. As the third-largest employer in Clinton County, LHU has 493 full-time and 41 part-time employees.

Lock Haven University is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System. The system’s collective 14 universities offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas of study. Nearly 520,000 system alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.

The university bought the old high school in 2004, some five years after it closed and Keystone Central School District opened Central Mountain High School with the merger of LHHS, Bald Eagle Nittany and Sugar Valley High Schools.