Collaboration key in Downtown Hays Pavilion project
By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN FHSU University Relations and Marketing
The definition of collaboration in the Oxford Dictionary is “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.”
Performing in the true sense of the word, two pillars of the community collaborated with classes from two of the city’s post-secondary institutions to build a gathering space for the ages in downtown Hays.
The Downtown Hays Development Corporation planned a 46-by-86-foot outdoor pavilion on 10th Street, about a block east of Main. The planning and design class at Fort Hays State University designed the structure. FHSU’s building construction class built it with some guidance from Commercial Builders Superintendent Geoff Withington. And an electrical technology class from North Central Kansas Technical College installed the electrical wiring and lighting.
The dedication of the new Downtown Pavilion in Union Pacific Park on a warm, sunny afternoon Friday was a long time coming.
Sandy Jacobs, former DHDC board president, said the idea of a downtown pavilion had been tossed around for more than 15 years.
The project was boosted from a proposal in 2012 to a plan that came to fruition six years later with a $100,000 donation from the Bob and Pat Schmidt Foundation and a matching grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation.
Cornerstones and bricks in the north wall
The DHDC sold 50 bricks and 24 larger cornerstones to the public that were placed in a wall on the north side of the pavilion. The wall was finished with a cement cap for seating purposes. An additional thousand-plus bricks were available after being removed from the sidewalk area to the west when a public restroom was built in 2017.
“I think the bricks add a lot of history,” said Sara Bloom, DHDC executive director.
Dustin Roths, current DHDC board president, called the pavilion “a gift to the people of Hays, to all of western Kansas.”
Ellis Co. Commissioner Barb Wasinger with FHSU Building Construction instructor Kris Munsch and Gary Weatherbee, Commercial Builders president.
Kris Munsch, assistant professor of applied technology and instructor of FHSU’s building construction class, said he and his students enjoyed witnessing the public’s interest in construction. Several people drove and walked by to take a look at the progress of the project on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
“Oh my goodness, it’s a very visual project for the community,” Munsch said. “It’s a community investment.”
From the cathedral ceiling with a tongue-and-groove pine ceiling to the clay tile roof – and everything in between – FHSU senior Caden Schulz said the project was a learning experience.
“I’ve been really excited about getting it done and seeing what people think,” said Schulz, a construction management major from Wray, Colo. “I had never done a tile roof before, so I was glad to be able to be a part of that.”
The pavilion is available for use free to the public, and groups can reserve it by calling the Hays Parks Department at 785-628-7375.
Eight benches commemorating several partnerships that made the project possible surround the outside corridor of the pavilion. Four more benches have been placed near the public bathroom area.
In addition to the cement wall, more seating was provided with square limestone structures covering the 12 steel base plates of the column supports.
By design, the rest of the area is open space. Groups are able to bring their own seating if needed.
“We’ve had a lot of requests to keep it open,” Bloom said. “We already have musical performances and barbecue contests scheduled here. There are so many possibilities for this space. There can be dances and family gatherings. The possibilities are endless.”
The pavilion also features free internet access provided by Nex-Tech.
Dr. Tisa Mason, FHSU president, was unable to attend the dedication but sent her congratulations to all who were part of the project.
Brent Hirsch, current vice president of the Student Government Association, read remarks from Mason.
“Fort Hays State University is proud to have played an important role in the design and construction of the Downtown Pavilion,” Hirsch read. “This structure represents a strong partnership between Fort Hays State University and the Hays community, representing a downtown dream and the creativity and strength of approximately 80 FHSU students.”
“I can’t think of a better way to teach our students the importance of community,” Mason wrote. “Thank you for this opportunity for our students to learn, create and grow in their areas of study. We look forward to future partnerships and the development of new and exciting projects in the Hays community.”
“Both Fort Hays State and NCK Tech are intricate parts of our community in so many ways,” she said. “A lot of time the partnerships are through the professors and instructors and not the students. This is the students getting excited about the community, investing in the community and maybe staying in the community even after they graduate.”
Munsch’s building construction class traditionally builds residential garages for its spring project. But he jumped at the chance for something different.
“This is by far more interesting than a garage, partly because of the scale of the project,” he said. “A garage is about 10 yards of concrete, and this was 90 yards.”
Allen Hill, chair of the electrical technology department at the Hays campus of NCK Tech, said the project also worked out really well for his students.
“They’ve had a good time with it,” he said, “and it was a great experience for them.”
The pavilion has a cathedral ceiling with tongue-and-groove pine with decorative metal corbels on the underside.
Other NCK Tech students also contributed to the project as the welding class provided decorative corbels on the underside of the roof.
Schulz said he was glad he had the opportunity to get to work with a professional construction superintendent.
“Geoff is a good instructor himself,” Schulz said. “He’s been really patient with us, and we learned a lot working with him.”
Withington expressed mutual feelings.
“I truly enjoyed it,” he said. “I told the students this is a real-life experience. I’d like to do something like this again.”
Some folks hung around after the dedication, proclaiming the beauty of both the pleasant spring weather and the new addition to downtown Hays.
Bloom glanced around and realized that the pavilion was now open to the public. In fact, the inaugural event was scheduled for just a few hours after the dedication. The FHSU Jazz Ensemble and Quartet were set to play there Friday night during the city’s Spring Art Walk.
“We want this to be the most utilized shelter in Hays,” Bloom said. “I’ve heard it’s beautiful in the dark, all lit up. I can hardly wait until tonight.”
Munsch hopes some of the folks utilizing the shelter are the young people who helped build it.
“The students can really take pride in this,” Munsch said. “It’s about leaving a legacy. They can come back here 20 years from now, take their family under it and say, ‘I helped build this.’ ”
Hays Mayor James Meier said he hopes this can just be the beginning of other similar projects.
“Let’s think what else we can do to make our city better,” he said. “Let’s look at more campus to core. Let’s look to the future.”