The possibility of a Greek Village became a little clearer following the University of Central Arkansas’ Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning. According to UCA President Tom Courtway, the project needs to be considered in the near future.
In September, the board gave Courtway the go-ahead to hire an architectural firm to draw up plans for a possible housing development for members of the Greek system.
The move is a first step toward building a major project — estimated to cost up to $12 million — to house fraternity and sorority members. Greek Village would go up on about 12.5 acres at the corner of Dave Ward Drive and Farris Road and could add about 350 beds at UCA.
Courtway said that five buildings, costing around $8.5 million, could be constructed whenever the board gives the final say. He said five sororities have expressed interest in building right away. Three fraternities have also expressed interest, and Courtway said those groups have backing and alumni ready to see the project started.
"We know that by using a bond issue for this, we should be able to flip the debt to revenue by year 14," Courtway said. "Now, some of you may think that is a long time, but we are currently losing money on Bear Hall and on Farris Hall, both of which are our two top residence halls. At some point, those will flip and become revenue generators.
Courtway said at maximum capacity, the Greek Village should bring in about $1.9 million in housing revenue and another $1.1 in food service revenue. Courtway also envisioned a community center in phase three of the project to allow smaller groups to hold meetings and functions.
When asked about the possibility of the village being prioritized over a new academic building, such as health sciences, Courtway said he envisioned the possibility to do both at the same time because of the general improvement money in hand. "The Greek Village will pay itself back over time," he said.
Courtway visited Arkansas State University, which has recently completed a sorority village, and ASU President Dr. Charles Welch said sorority membership is up 50 percent.
"Student leaders come out of the Greek system," Courtway said. "Retention rates and graduation rates are higher among these groups than in the general student body. Something like this creates buzz, It can help in recruitment. We need to take a hard look at this soon."