An eye-pleasing entrance to SMSU

MARSHALL – For now, it’s just a pond near the intersection of East College Drive and Minnesota Highway 23. But preliminary planning is under way to turn the area into a message of welcome for Southwest Minnesota State University.

Landscaping and new signage on a peninsula jutting into the pond will serve as a visible “entrance point” for the university, said SMSU Foundation Executive Director Bill Mulso.

“It will welcome people to the university and to the community,” Mulso said. While SMSU currently has several entrance points to its campus from Highway 23, East College Drive and Birch Street, they don’t really give the sense of a formal main entrance, or of the university’s identity, he said.

“We have some concepts” for the look of the project, Mulso said, and the plan is to complete landscaping and sign construction this summer.

The SMSU Foundation and the SMSU Alumni Association are working to raise private funds for construction of the entrance area project, Mulso said. They hope to raise at least $200,000.

“We’re just getting started with it,” Mulso said of the fundraising campaign. “We’re planning to do the project with all private dollars.”

The new pond near the university campus is one of two dug by the city of Marshall last year as part of a stormwater retention project. The second pond is located on the east side of Highway 23, directly across from the SMSU pond.

“Some of the original plans for the university included a pond located on the property,” Mulso said, but for various reasons the pond was never built. When the city began working on its retention project last year, the time was right to collaborate. The shape of the pond dug near the university includes a strip of land ideal for placement of permanent sign and landscaping.

Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson said a pair of matching aerator fountains will be installed in the ponds this summer. Once the fountains are in place, the city’s portion of the project will be finished. Mulso said planners from SMSU are looking at design options for signs and landscaping, to be completed this summer.

A bronze mustang statue is planned to complete the project, although specific details on the design aren’t available yet. Mulso said planners are looking for artists and proposals for the sculpture project. The goal is to have the statue installed in 2015, he said.