Seahawk Landing has ribbon-cutting

Published 3:13 pm Saturday, September 17, 2016

Students have a new reason to attend Lamar State College in Port Arthur besides its state-accredited education.

At LSC-PA on Friday, several people including Lamar administration, Texas State Board of Regents, City of Port Arthur officials and ITEX employees were on hand to celebrate the ribbon-cutting for Seahawk Landing, a student residence hall recently completed in time for the 2015-2016 school year.

“Seahawk Landing has required leadership, foresight, financial support and significant patience and vigor,” Dr. Betty J. Reynard, President of Lamar State College Port Arthur, said in her opening remarks to the audience.

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The benefits of having student quarters on campus seemed clear for those in attendance.

“It is a great opportunity and game-changer for Lamar State,” Dr. Sam Monroe, former president of LSC-PA, said about the hall.

“Everybody was afraid of building a facility like this, but the Port Arthur EDC was willing to take a look at this,” Monroe said. “They were looking at ways to make it happen instead of finding reasons why it wouldn’t.”

Monroe recounted the process of getting the support needed for building the hall.

“Texas law had [provisions] for affordable housing but not for student housing,” the former president said. “[Texas Representative] Joe Deshotel carried the bill to make it possible.

“Mayor Prince and other council members made it a reality.”

Monroe stressed that while the bill allowing for student housing was easily passed in the Senate, it played out quite differently in the House of Representatives.

“It passed in the House by one vote,” Monroe said.

But Dr. Monroe emphasized, “Everyone is a winner here,” including the city, college, developers and students.

“It’s a wonderful event,” Dr. Jaime Garza, chairman of the Texas State University System Board of Regents, said in remarks to the crowd. “It’s going to change the face of the campus.”

And while the end result of a finished hall was applauded, the Director of the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation Floyd Batiste reminded everyone of how hard it was to get the project off the ground in the first place.

“It was the toughest fight I’ve ever been in,” Batiste said.

Batiste recalled how he and Senator Carl Parker drove to Austin to secure the support needed for the student hall and how their stance was “contested heavily.”

“It won by one vote in the House,” Batiste said, echoing Monroe’s earlier remarks.

Batiste congratulated Lamar and those responsible for its new residence hall.

“It’s a wonderful day for Port Arthur,” he said.

“How much better is it to have hundreds of kids here?” Batiste asked, referring to the potential of having more students and more entrepreneurial youth in the Downtown Port Arthur area.

“I look forward to more to come.”

Meanwhile, the President of The ITEX Group Chris Akbari expressed similar praise for the completion of Seahawk Landing.

“We’re really proud to work here in the community,” Akbari said. “We’re glad to deliver… It’s a fantastic opportunity to make vision come into reality.”

Monroe thought that the new student housing could only mean good things for the college’s future.

“It gives the college the ability to be a major asset and to marshal out its appeal to [people] around the country and around the world,” Monroe said.

“There are inquiries about some of the school’s programs from individuals in Asia and Eastern Europe. So, it’s great for the college and for its distant future.”

“I think it does two things for the college,” Dr. Deborrah Hebert, Dean of Student Services for LSC-PA, said. “1.) It reaches out to the students who are not in the community area. 2.) For local students, they don’t have to fight traffic.”

Hebert was positive in the residence hall’s effects for better school performance.

“Studies have shown that students get more involved and focused on their schoolwork when they live on campus.

“It’s a different culture. You don’t have your brother banging on your door, your mom yelling at you about laundry. It allows students to focus on academic growth and development.”

Hebert even appreciated the basic build of the various rooms.

“What’s nice about these rooms are that they each have a bedroom door. So, in case one student is up late studying, he or she can close the door and not bother their roommate,” Hebert said. “But the rooms also have a common area so the students aren’t isolated.”

Currently, there are 47 students living in Seahawk Landing at the time of this writing, with more interested in taking up residence. The hall can house 100 students.

Akbari said that if response was good, there could be plans for an expansion behind the first hall that would hold another 48 students.

Aside from the initial time window set by legislature to have Seahawk Landing completed by next year, Akbari stated that the company’s goal was to have it finished by the beginning of the fall school year.

As the ribbon cutting event on Friday indicated, it was a successful goal.