WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ-Work is officially under way for a new 152,400-sf activity center on the campus of the 6,000-student Monmouth University here. Carrying a price tag of $57 million, the Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC), as it is named for now, is expected to be ready for use in two years.

“We want it to be the centerpiece of the campus,” said university president Paul Gaffney at this weekend’s formal groundbreaking. “The facility fits the notion of overall wellness.”

Personal fitness facilities are part of the complex’s mission. The centerpiece, however, will be a new 4,100-seat sports arena, which will replace the aging Boylan Gymnasium as the home of the school’s basketball and other teams. It will be physically connected to the old gym, which will be converted to intramural sports and community use. The site is also adjacent to Kessler Field, the school’s football stadium.

Besides the arena and the personal fitness facilities, the MAC will also include an indoor track, locker rooms, educational and administrative space, and conference space. The university’s bookstore will also be relocated from its current site on campus to the new complex.

University officials say they’ve raised $10 million in donations toward the cost of construction. They also say they hope to raise a total of $20 million, with the rest of the MAC’s final cost to be paid with construction financing. Monmouth University is a private institution.

The project has been in the works for several years, but has faced some local opposition. The 156-acre campus is largely surrounded by residential neighborhoods, and there have been some concerns voiced over traffic. The facility just under construction is a slightly scaled-back version of what was originally proposed.

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