If you have driven around Gill Coliseum the past few weeks, you have seen chain-link fences barricading the front entryway to the building with plenty of demolition taking place.

In what Athletic Director Scott Barnes said was a long time coming, Oregon State is in the process of creating a new plaza area that will include landscaping, new lighting, benches and improvements to AD parking.

The university will also work on some branding to celebrate and highlight, as Barnes said, "the history and great players of the past and the sports that occupy the building."

The project should be completed by Sept. 9 and in plenty of time for the volleyball team’s home opener on Sept. 26 against Oregon, which opens Pac-12 play.

“I think it will go a long ways aesthetically but also from a safety perspective because we didn’t have lighting, we had uneven pavers, we had all kinds of issues out there,” Barnes said Monday morning. “So it will bring a really nice look to the front of this street out here but also mitigates a lot of safety concerns.”

All told the renovations for the plaza upgrade, part of a larger scale renovation of the building, will cost around $1 million, Barnes said.

“We’re excited to get that one ready and I think we look at that as the next phase,” Barnes said. “We took care of the video board inside and then the grand plans in our master plans are to do some renovations to the inside of the building.”

Barnes said that while most projects are funded my major donors, fans can get involved on a lesser degree for the plaza renovation.

“This is a beloved historic building that a lot of our fans have enjoyed so we will be rolling out an opportunity for everybody to participate in this,” he said. “A lot of times these facility projects are done with major gifts, and we certainly have been courting some larger gifts, but we want to give our fan base an opportunity to be involved in the Gill plaza renovation so that will be rolled out here in the next little while.”

The renovation of Gill plaza is part of the university’s 10-year facilities master plan, which is estimated to cost in the $300 million range, but is not the only project that is taking place this summer.

After the addition of lights to the OSU Softball Complex last year, the university is in the process of installing a new dirt infield with a synthetic turf for the outfield.

“That’s just another step and a needed step,” Barnes said. “So we’re looking forward to finishing the infield and then outfield area very soon.”

Barnes said the target date for completion is Sept. 1 and the project will come in around $1 million.

There will also be a new hitting facility, likely located along the left-field line, in the future. However, that project is in the initial stages of design.

The addition of lights allowed the Beavers to play some later starting games and provided more flexibility for broadcast times for television and the Pac-12 Networks.

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“What I’ve been hearing is just the commitment and investment in softball has been appreciated,” Barnes said. “It gives us a chance to take another step in our program, more exposure as we get more television opportunities and the potential to host (postseason). So those are all positives.”

On Monday, workers began moving the weight equipment from the Sports Performance Center for a “total renovation” of the building.

Barnes said the project, which has a target completion date of late fall, will be an entire redo of the inside, including a fueling station, nutrition station, all new equipment, new lighting and floors and branding.

The corner of the Truax Center will become the temporary home of the old equipment.

“It’s not without its logistical concerns, but all for the sake of progress, right,” Barnes said with a chuckle.

While those are the projects taking place now, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of a number of plans the university has to upgrade facilities and provide athletes, and in some cases fans, with the opportunity to have the best experience.

The biggest project is centered around updates to Reser Stadium. The university is continuing to look for ways to enhance the fan experience and atmosphere for recruits, build additional premium seating option and enhance revenue capabilities, as well as to create a continuous main concourse, among other things.

Some of those smaller projects, such as meeting rooms upgrades, will take place soon.

While Reser Stadium is more of a continuous, long-term project, there are some shorter ones the university will be undertaking in the near future.

The women’s basketball locker room is going to bid this week and Barnes hopes that project, estimated at about $2.5 million, will be completed by the start of conference play in either late December or early January.

The university has also purchased a building on Research Way that will partly serve as a training facility for the gymnastics program. That is in the infant stage and will go to bid at some point this year.

There will also be some new bleachers for soccer and track and field in the near future.

While many of the projects may be on the smaller scale in terms of scope and cost, Barnes said each one will serve a need for the particular sport.

“It creates momentum in all those programs and they’re first and foremost needs that were developed through the facilities master plan process and so you match the needs with the interests and ability of your donors, because all of these projects are fundraised,” he said.

“… I think our donors, they see that and they like that their dollars can go to impact a program sooner rather than later.”

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald