NJIT's $300M expansion a 'game changer,' school says

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on November 19, 2015

A rendering of the Wellness and Events Center. (Courtesy NJIT)

 

NEWARK — Call it NJIT 2.0.

The school officially broke ground last week on a $102 million, 200,000 square foot Wellness and Events Center – a project that, when completed, school officials say will be the center of its renovated campus.

The new building, which played a role in securing the formerly-independent Division I school basketball team a spot in the Atlantic Sun Conference, is just one in a series of projects that school officials say will total about $300 million, and overhaul the Newark campus.

"In its design and function, WEC is a game changer -- an iconic building that will serve the university and the community well for many years," NJIT President Joel Bloom said in a statement to NJ Advance Media.

"It's the game changer in our capital campaign to revitalize our campus."

The WEC, which should be built by the fall of 2017, will include a fitness center, study space, group meeting space for student organizations, swimming pool, track, a promenade, and a sports arena that will also serve as a conference and events center.

Before the school announced plan for the arena, which will house about 3,500 fans during a game, it had the only Div. I basketball team in the country that did not belong to a conference. After the announcement, and a stunning win against Michigan last season, the basketball team finally found a conference home.

NJIT Athletic Director Lenny Kaplan called the groundbreaking "a great day to be a Highlander."

"There is a lot of opportunity to get the whole campus involved...this is a place every student will be from the time they go on their first tour (as prospective students) through alumni involvement."

In July, the school unveiled its "2020 Vision," a strategic plan for development over the next five years. In addition to research, academic, and student-based initiatives outlined in the plan, it focuses on continuing to grow student numbers (NJIT currently has about 11,000 students), and physical space to accommodate them.

"NJIT will ensure that the human, physical and technological resources for student learning and faculty research have the highest priority," the plan reads. "A multiyear campus plan...will propel NJIT to state, regional, national and international prominence."

In addition to new parking lots and on-campus housing that was recently finished, the school also broke ground last month on a $19 million Life Sciences and Engineering building.

Funding for the expansion, officials said, has come from a variety of sources, including a $150 million capital campaign that exceeded its fundraising goal two years ahead of schedule. In a statement, Bloom called the NJIT NEXT fundraising campaign "tremendous."

"Our donors understand that we are preparing for what is next in a technology-based economy," he said.

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