The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga project breezed through the five-member State Building Commission last week on a unanimous vote with little comment.
Building Commission members also approved a $1.5 million revision in the project budget, funding and sources of funding for other projects involving two office buildings deeded to UTC by the state.
The new football athletic training facility would be on the north edge of campus near the McKenzie Arena, according to the presentation made by Ron Maples, the UT system's interim treasurer and chief financial officer.
Approval means the Chattanooga campus can begin using $1 million in school plant funds to develop a project budget and start the process of selecting a designer. Other steps will have to come back before the Building Commission for approval as the process moves along.
Robbi Stivers, executive director of UT's Office of Capital Projects, said the $18.5 million estimate is simply a rough projection at this stage and would be refined, along with expected square footage and other items as the process moves ahead.
"It's part of the planning process," said Stivers, noting the current projection is 60,000 square feet.
Stivers said UTC has a general training facility a little south of the new project. The existing facility will likely "remain in play," he said, adding, "The new one's dedicated more towards football."
UTC officials will have to decide whether to move forward on the project, which would be financed through gifts, Stivers said. If the decision is yes, and the Building Commission approves, the new facility could be ready within two years.
Building Commission members also approved adding $1.5 million to money already approved for retrofitting the former State Office Building and the adjacent James R. Mapp Building.
The state gave both buildings to UTC. The $4 million already approved is going for interior and exterior construction, including replacing the Mapp building's roof and temporarily using the old state office building for surge office needs.
The additional $1.5 million will allow UTC to install "smart classrooms" in the Mapp building with the latest technology for the Occupational and Physical Therapy departments.
The new money will come from bonds issued by the Tennessee State School Bond Authority.
Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfree press.com, 615-255-0550 or follow via Twitter @AndySher1.