DSU proposes $57 million convocation center

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Delaware State University is asking the state for $57.5 million to build a convocation center.

The college recently conducted a feasibility study to examine how the proposed facility could be used by DSU as well as the greater Kent County community. Lawmakers on the Bond Bill Committee heard the details of the request during a meeting Thursday as they prepare to enter the budget mark-up session at the end of the month.

The report predicts that the facility could attract about 150 to185 events a year and would be open to organizations across the state to use. The center would seat more than 6,000 for DSU events, such as basketball games and commencement ceremonies.The college could also bring in outside acts such as car shows, trade shows, conventions, concerts and other entertainment. 

Currently, the City of Dover does not have an indoor venue that can seat more than 2,500 patrons.

“Right now, if we get 1,500 people at the existing facility, we’ve got to call in the fire marshals and that’s embarrassing to be very honest with you,” said DSU President Harry Williams.

The university plans to build the facility on a plot known as “civic center land,” which is a site that was purchased several years ago to construct a $60 million civic center. The facility never materialized, and the university is unsure of the cost to purchase the lot from the civic center’s developers.

To ensure that the convocation center wouldn’t be cutting into other business, the steering committee surveyed other venues throughout the state and held a meeting with Dover Downs Hotel and Casino.

“We toured the entire facility of Dover Downs and talked about what their needs are, because there are some things that they’re just not able to hold in their large ballroom space,” explained Doug Moss, a member of the steering committee. “So we’ve been very specific and clear that this does not overlap with the types of needs or uses that Dover Downs currently has.”

The Delaware Convocation Center, which would be fully funded by the state, could take 18 months to design and two years to build. Williams said that DSU is not able to perform a fundraising campaign because alumni, donors and foundations are already being tapped for a scholarship campaign.

The state currently faces a combined $55 million deficit for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015.

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