Judge lifts injunction delaying alumni center demolition

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WACO—A federal judge has lifted the temporary restraining order that delayed Baylor University’s plan to demolish the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center.

The university needs the alumni center site to create a plaza leading to a pedestrian bridge that will connect the main campus to a $250 million football stadium under construction across the Brazos River, Baylor administrators have said.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith removed his temporary restraining order after a prolonged mediation session July 22 failed to resolve the dispute between a Chicago-area alumnus, the university and the Baylor Alumni Association.

Kurt Dorr, a Baylor graduate from Naperville, Ill., filed suit against the Baylor Alumni Association; its past president, Elizabeth Coker, a Polk County District Court judge; its incumbent president, Collin Cox, a Houston attorney; and Baylor University. The suit charged the planned demolition of the alumni center violated a 1994 agreement between the university and the Baylor Alumni Association regarding the building.

Dorr’s lawyers subsequently filed a motion to drop Baylor University from the lawsuit. However, the university remained involved in the case, since the outcome directly affects the construction schedule for Baylor Stadium and the bridge to the sports facility.

Amended suit

The Waco Tribune-Herald reported Dorr amended his suit July 25 to seek at least $10 million in damages—at least $5 million from the university and $5 million from Cox and Coker. The judge’s July 26 action lifting the restraining order gave Dorr up to one week to decide whether he will continue to pursue damages, or the case will be dismissed.

John Mabry, a Waco attorney who represented Dorr, told the Tribune-Herald he and his client were “disappointed in the judge’s decision” to dissolve the restraining order and were weighing further options.

University President Ken Starr sent a letter addressed to “Baylor Nation” July 29, announcing the judge’s decision to remove the temporary restraining order that, he said, “prevented us from moving ahead with our construction schedule which is so vital to the timely completion of our new stadium.”

“We are grateful that Baylor can now move forward,” Starr wrote. “We have before us the opportunity to enter a new era of unity with a focus on building Baylor University.”

Vote set Sept. 7

In the letter, Starr urged members of the Baylor Alumni Association to approve a proposed transition agreement that coalesces alumni engagement efforts under one in-house organization, dissolves the Baylor Alumni Association and creates a new independent corporation to publish the Baylor Line magazine. The BAA will consider the proposal at a called meeting Sept. 7. Ratification requires two-thirds approval by members in attendance.

“The democratic governance structure of the BAA provides an occasion for members to exercise their powers of self-determination through a vote to accept or reject this agreement,” Starr wrote. “I am hopeful that members will endorse this new path forward.”

Mabry told the Tribune-Herald he still hopes the university will delay demolition of the alumni center until members of the Baylor Alumni Association have voted.

“Once you tear down the building, it’s gone. You can’t unspill the milk,” he said.

A few days before the failed mediation, Baylor University’s regents announced a fund-raising initiative to build a $17 million alumni event center at Baylor Stadium. Regents also approved up to $2.5 million for site preparation, a feasibility study and architectural renderings for the center on the south side of the stadium plaza. Plans include a 40,000-square-foot multi-story glass building with space for meetings and banquets.

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