New student union opening date likely delayed to 2022

Construction of Fresno State’s new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Student Union is paused until it receives the State Fire Marshal Office's approval. (Vendila Yang/The Collegian)

Construction of Fresno State’s new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Student Union has been paused as the State Fire Marshal’s (SFM) Office needs to approve the construction plans.

Debbie Adishian-Astone, vice president for administration and chief financial officer, said there are various factors that are delaying the approval process. 

These include “staffing availability, other projects that may be coming in for plan check at the same time, the size and complexity of the project, whether it’s new construction, whether it’s renovation, or if there’s other things going on in the state, like wildfires and a pandemic,” Astone said.

There are also other universities that are working on projects that also depend on approval from the SFM office, Astone said. 

“There are a couple of other sister campus projects that are kind of in the same queue that we are in,” Astone said. “And depending upon sometimes just their level of review and comments, each plan checker in the State Fire Marshal’s Office may take a little bit different approach to the level of review that they are doing or the number of details or questions they might have.”

According to a press release from Jan. 22, the anticipated opening date was in fall 2021.

“The University is optimistic that the general contractor,  McCarthy Building Companies, will be able to resume construction activities sometime this spring,” Astone said in the press release. “Once construction has resumed, Fresno State will be able to announce a revised completion date that will be sometime in 2022.”

Tinnah Medina, assistant vice president for facilities management, said that review and sign off from the SFM office takes about eight months on average depending on the complexity of the project.

This is the fourth backcheck for this project, which refers to the process of getting approval from the SFM office, Medina said.

In a backcheck, the SFM office examines any possible concern regarding construction and sends corrections or notations to the design team. The office does this to make sure the design meets the regulations in the state’s fire retardancy requirements.

Elizabeth Rocha Zuñiga, Associated Students Inc. (ASI) president, said the pandemic has definitely affected the planning process and construction of the new student union.

Zuniga acknowledged the pandemic is not the only factor delaying the SFM’s approval, and she said that focusing on struggling individuals and fires is more important for the fire marshal office.

Fresno State’s Facilities Management team is working closely with the general contractor to keep the project moving forward by procuring materials and equipment that have a long lead time for fabrication and installation and which are not impacted by the approval of the building plans by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, according to a press release from Jan. 22.

By September 2020, 30 steel beams were installed, and 788 more steel beams still need to be installed. Since then, no additions have been made to the construction site.

Despite the delays, there are no added costs to students for this semester. 

When the grand opening takes place, students can be expected to pay $298 per year or $149 per semester. This is a $60 per year increase from the $238 yearly fee students are currently paying for the university student union fee.

“The approved fee increase of $149/semester will cover both debt service and operations and ongoing maintenance,” Astone said.

The total budget for the completion of the project stands at $60 million. Astone said that specific information on the budget is not available at this point.

Private donations will help with covering the cost of additional items, Astone said.

“Private donor support will augment the project budget beyond this amount to cover the cost of [specific details, such as] higher quality finishes, furnishings and technology infrastructure,” Astone said.

Construction planning began in March 2017. After students voted to build the student union, construction began in November 2019, and Keats Avenue was closed near the Kremen School of Education building. 

The groundbreaking for the new student union occurred in February 2020, while the Keats building and the 57-year-old historic amphitheater were both torn down in March 2020. 

The Resnick Student Union is the newest of three student unions on campus and will be located between the Speech Arts building and the University Center.

According to a press release from Fresno State on Sept. 24, 2019, donations toward the RSU include $10 million from Lynda and Stewart Resnick, $1 million from the Leon S. Peters Foundation, $250,000 from Marvin and Jane Baxter and $25,000 from Ryan and Ashley Jacobsen.

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