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Ada will have a community saferoom available to as many as 1,700 people during stormy weather, thanks to a $1.46 million grant awarded to East Central University by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The 8,960 square-foot saferoom also will double as a conference room in ECU’s new Business and Conference Center that will be constructed on Main Street west of the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center. The three-story, 53,000 square-foot facility also will be the new home of ECU’s School of Business. “Not only will this grant provide a safe place to stay during bad weather, it will enhance the partnership of the university, the Ada Arts District, the City of Ada and the business community,” said ECU President John Hargrave.

“The Business and Conference Center will provide new technology and innovative approaches to students in the School of Business.

It will bring more people to Ada, and that will benefit hotels, motels, restaurants, gas stations and retail stores,” Hargrave said. “And, it will be a place the community can gather for special events.

” The FEMA grant has a big impact on the construction of the Business and Conference Center, said Dr. Steve Turner, ECU vice president for finance and administration. “Considering the construction cost only, which is $9.4 million, this grant is 21 percent of the total budget for construction. It will cover basically most of the first floor in the building,” he said.

The first floor also will house the Small Business Development Center, ECU Police Department, a synergistic learning center and a food court.

The second floor is reserved for the School of Business classrooms and student lounge. Each classroom will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The third floor will contain the dean’s office, faculty offices, conference rooms, computer labs and a student work area.

Approximately $2 million in additional funds will be needed for fixtures, furniture and equipment, making the total cost of the building $11.1 million.

Including the grant, approximately $7.4 million has been secured through pledges or gifts, leaving $3.7 million still to be raised.

Hargrave hopes construction can begin as funds become available. The project, which should be completed in 18 to 20 months, will add 30 to 40 well-paying jobs to the city during construction.

The saferoom/conference center could hold 1,700 people during storms if all were standing, Hargrave said. The center also could be used as a staging area in case of disasters. It will have a generator, additional restrooms and even showers.

If the electricity is off across town, the facility would have high priority and OG&E would work to keep the power on so people could gather there.

As a conference center, it will be one of the largest venues for community events in the area. It will be capable of seating 500 at banquets and can be divided into three breakout rooms.

“If you combine it with the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center, it will be a major complement to the community. It also can complement the Pontotoc Technology Center and the Agriplex,” Hargrave said. “We want it to be a community tool, a location to host many events.”

Hargrave sees the new center as a transitional building from the ECU campus to the Ada and business communities.

“Its architectural style and its functional style were designed to connect ECU to the business community and private sector,” Hargrave said.

Just across a parking lot is the East Main Enterprise and Incubator which helps small business start-ups and now houses two new arts-related businesses.

Faculty members in the School of Business have been involved in the design process, and the architectural firm Miles Associates in Oklahoma City has included plans for the school’s growth.

Several major donors have been involved in the project and naming opportunities are still available, from offices and classrooms up to naming the School of Business.

“We appreciate those who stepped up early in our fundraising efforts,” Hargrave said. “We are at a place now when construction costs have come down and there are people who want to work.

 “In a small community, what’s good for one is good for all,” he said. “The whole community can step back and say this is good for the City of Ada.

 “And I want to thank the ECU faculty and staff for their hard work that made this grant possible for ECU.”

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