Virginia Tech's popular Marching Virginians has more than just its 40th season of existence to celebrate this fall.
This week the university's governing Board of Visitors gave a key approval to a project to erect phase one of a structure for the marching band – a roughly 4,300-square-foot building for instrument storage and percussion practice, and an attached, 3,500-square-foot pavilion that will provide covered space for the full band to practice, rain or shine. The project also includes a lighted practice field.
The facilities will be located behind the southeast corner of the Chicken Hill Parking lot, near Lane Stadium, and are projected to cost $4.75 million.
Funding for the project is a partnership, with a significant portion coming from the Department of Athletics. Recreational Sports is contributing as well, and construction is also being funded by donations raised by the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. The Marching Virginians are administered through that college's School of Performing Arts.
"I’m particularly excited about this project, because the Marching Virginians band is made up of students from all over the university," said Sue Ott Rowlands, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. "While we provide a home for the band, it's really a university-wide initiative. There are no better ambassadors for Virginia Tech than the Marching Virginians."
Referring to the university's motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), she added that members of the Marching Virginians "exemplify Ut Prosim through their service projects, and the nature of the Virginia Tech community through their spirit and enthusiasm."
When the new building is completed, the Marching Virginians will no longer store instruments in the lower level of the baseball team's batting cage facility. Along with space for storage and for the band's drumline to practice, the building will have restrooms and small personal lockers for band members. The building, pavilion, and practice field will give the band more suitable practice spaces. For the moment, it practices on the infield of the Johnson-Miller Track Complex.
"They needed a home and we wanted to help them," said Tom Gabbard, associate athletic director for internal affairs.
"This will make our rehearsals much more efficient and our instrument storage more secure," said Dave McKee, who along with directing the Marching Virginians is a senior instructor in the School of Performing Arts. "It will instill a higher sense of pride for everyone involved in the band. There will be a sense of permanence now, a sense of home."
McKee said he and the band are extremely grateful to the athletic and recreational sports departments, and to the many donors who have contributed toward the project so far. Fundraising is ongoing, with an interest in further developing the facility in a second phase down the road.
"Most of the donations have come from Marching Virginians alumni, who recognize that they had a unique experience during their time with the band and are really devoted to ensuring that future members have an even better experience than they had," McKee said, adding that family members of band alumni and friends of the program have donated as well.
The Board of Visitors approved a $400,000 planning authorization for phase one of the project on Sept. 9.