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The new look on campus

When it came time to tear down the Saint Leo College theater building, Monsignor Frank Mouch decided he should break the news.

Mouch, the college's president, says he is always sensitive to what Father Marion Bowman thinks about changes on campus _ especially changes like tearing down something that has been around for nearly 50 years.

Mouch was ready to get an earful.

"Instead, he said, "You should have torn it down long ago. It was a temporary building when it was put up,'

" Mouch said one recent morning during a campus stroll.

The building was torn down over spring break as part of a continuing $7-million sweep of campus renovations and improvements, paid for with $4-million in donations and a $3-million loan _ the college's only debt.

College officials now are gearing up to raise funds to renovate the McDonald Center, which houses a cafeteria and dining room that has huge windows that face Clear Lake. The theater building used to obscure the center's view.

Estimates for work on the center, which has had "a touch here and a touch there" but no major renovation for 27 years, came in at about $1.5-million, Mouch said.

A new fitness center is on the college's wish list, as is a humanities facility with a theater.

Before then, two tennis courts near the main campus entrance will become parking lots and a six-court tennis complex will be built near the athletic fields.

Parking seems a primary concern in the changes to come. Before the renovations, turning into the main entrance left "the effect of driving into a parking lot," Mouch said.

The entry, now graced with a median containing palm trees, foliage and flowers, used to be lined with parking spaces. Parking spaces remain available in the large lots to the east and west of the main entry and around the circular drive in front of the McDonald Center.

Eventually, that circular drive might be eliminated so that footpaths might be created.

An old construction plan for the college calls for the new humanities building to be built where the theater once stood.

"But now that we have all of this open space, we're not so sure that's what we want to do," Mouch said as he looked across the expanse of lawn where the theater building used to be.

The old plan called for covered walkways leading from the McDonald Center to the humanities building, assuming the college could offer dinner with theater afterward.

But that plan was created when the college had 54 acres, Mouch said. It now has 170, and more options exist for building sites, he said.

Another possibility is to move the college plant operations building, which is on the east side of the McDonald Center on a prime piece of college land with

a nice view of the lake. That site might be good for the humanities facility, Mouch said.

Work on the McDonald Center could start at the end of the 1996-97 school year. Renovations have to be done during the long summer break when only a few students are around _ some working campus jobs and 300 to 400 others in weekend programs.

The phase of work just winding up also included construction of an over-21 residence hall, where older students are allowed to possess and consume alcohol, and a total face lift for Roderick Hall, the original campus dormitory built in the 1950s when Saint Leo was a boys high school.

The two 1950s-era dorms on campus also were spruced up.

Whatever happens in the long term, Mouch will observe it from a new perch _ perhaps not unlike the one upon which Father Marion sits.

Mouch, 64, retires June 30 after 10 years as president. He plans to stay in the area and hopes to work for the college in some capacity, perhaps with fund-raising.

The 31-member college board mulled his future at a recent North Carolina retreat, but he said he has not heard what they have in mind.