John Powell, Asst. Sports Editor

There is always construction on George Mason University’s campuses, but a donation of 37 acres of land from Van Metre companies in Loudoun County, Va. gives students a reason to expect even more changes.

“The Van Metre Family . . . has had a long relationship with Mason and the Northern Virginia community, and they were looking for a way to honor [the late] Mr. Van Metre,” said Jerry Coughter, the executive officer for the Loudoun site administration. “They’ve owned the land in Loudoun for years and are looking to help the community and higher education.”

This land created a win-win situation for the Van Metre family and Mason. The Van Metre family receives a tax break by donating its land, along with the sense of pride that comes from helping the community, while Mason receives a no-strings-attached donation that allows the university to take its time building and developing the land.

“The wonderful thing about the gift,” said the Assistant Vice President for Regional Campuses Kathleen Johnson, “is that it gives us an opportunity to start building the relationships with the businesses and corporations in that area, that may lead to possibilities for the campus as we go forward.”

This is in stark contrast to a 123-acre plot of land that was almost used by Mason in 2005. Previous plans to receive and build on the land were blocked, as the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors rejected the proposal in 2006 for the campus to have basic construction completed in fall 2009. The rejection was due to the nature of the land exchange: the donor wanted more leeway from Loudoun County for other developments in exchange for donating land to a university.

“Now,” said Coughter, “there is no chance of the development not happening, because it’s there.”

Having the land donated allows for many more possible uses of the land, contrary to the 123-acre plot. Instead of having strict regulation on the use of the land and a strict timeline, as was proposed with the previous possibility, the university now has much more flexibility in both areas.

While classes are already held in a 20,000-sq. ft. office space in Sterling, Va., the university hopes to move out of that space and into the new campus.

According to Mason officials, for the short term, plans focus on hosting specific graduate classes on the campus. For the long term, the possibilities are almost endless. The campus could host a wide range of graduate classes and more undergraduate classes, with almost no limit for expansion. The construction of Metrorail’s new Silver Line would put a Metrorail stop within walking distance – approximately half of a mile – of the new campus. The ease of transportation allows for a much more accessible campus than the one currently in Loudoun County.

A Loudoun campus is still years in the future, though, with dates yet to be set for breaking ground, finishing contruction or moving in. Because of this long timeline, the construction will undoubtedly move at a slow pace.

In addition, the economic problems that have hit the Northern Virginia area have also hit the university and its funding.

“It’s a tough time in the budget cycle,” said the vice president of facilities, Thomas Calhoun.

Delaying these dates even more are the building projects that are still underway on the other campuses, most importantly the construction for the College of Health and Human Services and the Biomedical Research Laboratory on the Prince William County campus.

It is reasonable to expect a new campus in the Loudoun County area, but these plans and ideas may not be completely realized even within the next five years.

“There is no time frame yet,” said Calhoun in regards to the prospective date of completion.

One thing is sure: the university will move slowly on the Fairfax campus to allow sufficient funds to finish other building projects, and also to ensure that the buildings are as well-built as possible.

“There is no such thing as ‘finished.’ We’re always growing,” said Calhoun of the constant construction around Mason’s campuses.