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Baylor regents tour $60M Hurd Center, extend Livingstone's contract by 8+ years

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Hurd

Baylor University’s Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center is slated for completion next spring.

Baylor University’s board of regents took a break from passing a budget and extending President Linda Livingstone’s contract to tour the towering steel structure wedged between Interstate 35 and the Baylor campus that will become the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center.

The center is named for the Baylor University alumni who donated a lead gift for the university’s Give Light fundraising campaign in 2018. Its first floor will house multimedia exhibits about the university, an alumni center and a ballroom, while the second floor will house Baylor’s admissions offices and a 250-seat movie theater.

The $60 million building’s façade will mostly consist of glass when it’s complete, which should be some time in spring 2023, university spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said.

Mark Hurd, co-CEO of the software company Oracle, died in 2019. About a year of progress and 13,000 tons of steel later, Paula Hurd, his wife, was the first regent to sign a steel pillar to the left of the entrance and commemorate the visit.

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Regent Paula Hurd becomes the first to sign a pillar Thursday at the new Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center at Baylor University.

“It is so much more magnificent than the original ideas and inspiration,” Hurd said. “I’m overwhelmed with the scale, with the functionality of this space.”

The pillar is one of four that extend vertically 100 feet. Vaughn Construction project manager John McPeters said the pillars will be covered in green glass toward the base and white plastic casing further up. About $800,000 worth of stage lights on the inside will light up the translucent shells with a variety of colors.

At each pillar’s base, visitors will stand inside a small room with 360-degree projections of films all around them. The screens will stand about eight feet tall, placing them in the middle of quintessential Baylor experiences.

Suggestions include putting viewers in the middle of a crowd of Baylor students running the line at McLane Stadium, the inside of Pat Neff Hall complete with a view of the ceiling overhead, or a film reel of alumni stories. The pillars will contain about $5 million in audio and video equipment.

“Each pillar has something for either current Baylor affiliates, alumni or future (students) so it’s something for everybody,” said Meredith Mrok, visit experience coordinator for Baylor.

Darker glass on the exterior will fill the windows and lighter green glass on the inside will serve as a railing around the second floor and stairways.

Welcome Center (copy)

At the Hurd Welcome Center, four pillars will extend 100 feet in the air, with translucent shells lit from the inside in a variety of colors.

Mrok said tour groups will receives texts to let them know when the show is about to start, then head upstairs for a short film about Baylor University. The theater will seat 250 people at a time, and the screen will roll up and down to reveal a large window, giving the audience a perfect view of Truett Seminary across the street.

The ground-floor ballroom can seat about 1,000 and comes complete with a catering kitchen. The 20,000-square-foot space about the ballroom will be nothing but shell space when the building opens but is primed to become office space in the future.

“We’re unbelievably excited about the experiences it’s going to provide, whether it’s admissions or alumni or just people visiting from outside of Waco,” Baylor President Linda Livingstone said. “We can’t wait to show it off when we get it finished.”

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Baylor President Linda Livingstone, left, listens Thursday to Regent Paula Hurd, a namesake of the new welcome center.

Regents actions

During their three-day meeting which wrapped up Friday, Baylor regents voted to extend Livingstone’s contract to 2030 with optional extensions to 2032. Livingstone was appointed as the university’s 15th president in April 2017 in the wake of Baylor’s sexual assault scandal and has since led Baylor through a $1.1 billion fundraising campaign called Give Light.

Linda Livingstone

Livingstone

“Dr. Livingstone has led the university through depths we had never seen to heights we never dreamed,” Board President Mark Rountree said.

Livingstone said it was the support of the Baylor family — students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni — who helped the university reach its goals over the last five years.

“We laid out what we wanted the university to look like in the future, and then the fundraising campaign around that … allowed much of this to happen even more quickly than we would have anticipated,” Livingstone said. “And so I have great confidence in the future, because there’s such a great sense of care and love for this university for the Baylor family.”

The regents also voted to approve next year’s $863 million operating budget, an increase of $73.7 million, or 9.3%. The board signed off spending an additional $5 million on design and early construction work for the Fudge Football Development Center, a more than 100,000 square foot expansion of the university’s practice facility. The board had previously authorized $6 million for this initial phase.

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