South Charlotte

Wingate University plans new center

Wingate University recently announced plans to build a new 36,000-square-foot educational center in Matthews, which would offer more space for classes and offices, as well as increased visibility in the community.

The new education center is slated to open in 2013, on an eight-acre site near Interstate 485 Exit 52 at John Street.

The $5 million project is the university's largest investment outside its main campus in the town of Wingate.

The private university, founded in 1896, has more than 2,300 students, and university officials would like to continue reaching out to the adults in the Charlotte area.

Wingate began renting a building in Matthews in 1992, and 12 students took classes there. Nineteen years later, 492 students are enrolled in classes in downtown Matthews' Depot Building, which has classrooms and administrative offices.

"It's tight...and they've completely run out of room," said Annette Privette Keller, communications director for the Town of Matthews.

The first two floors of the new three-story building, with a classic brick-and-column architecture, will include 12 large classrooms, a learning center and offices. The university has the option to expand to the building's third floor, if needed in the future.

With its rented space in downtown Matthews, Wingate's current campus serves nearly 500 students. When the new center opens, campus programs will shift to the new building.

Ultimately, university officials would like to have room for 800 to 1,000 students by constructing two additional buildings.

The university plans to pay for half the center's cost and raise the other $2.5 million from local businesses and individuals.

The majority of students at Wingate's Matthews location have full-time jobs.

The university's programs in Matthews include: a bachelor's degree in liberal studies, master's degrees in business, education and sports administration, and a doctorate of education degree in educational leadership.

The university also handles educational licensure.

Privette-Keller said the town of Matthews looks forward to being Wingate's official home-away-from-home.

"We're just really excited for this - that we'll be a (permanent) home to the Wingate Bulldogs," said Keller.