Greek Village groundbreaking brings project closer to reality

By Tammy Keith Published May 15, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Tammy Keith

Members and an alumna of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway stand with their Greek letters on the site where their chapter house will be built as part of the Greek Village. From left are Hannah McCallister of Benton, a sophomore; Jordyn Kaga of Maui, Hawaii, a junior; Kimberly Irizarry of Little Rock, an alumna; and Nicole Turney of Greenbrier, a sophomore.

Having a house for her sorority at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway has been a long time coming, Tri Sigma alumna Kimberly Irizarry said.

She was present in April to help celebrate the groundbreaking for the first phase of the Greek Village on Donaghey and Augusta avenues.

“It was a dream since I was a new member in 1992,” said Irizarry, who lives in Little Rock. “Even then we had dreams of having a house.”

The first part of the project includes five two-story, 10,400-square-foot sorority houses and the first wing of a Greek community center. The cost of the initial project is $13.8 million, which includes construction, utilities, architect and engineering fees, and furnishings. Phase 2 will include fraternity houses and another wing of the community center.

Now, sororities pay a fee to use residence-hall suites for their meetings. Irizarry said the room in Carmichael Hall that the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority uses is too crowded.

“With 80 to 100 girls in a room, that’s a fire hazard,” she said.

More importantly, Irizarry said, is the opportunity to forge closer relationships by living together.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for sisterhood,” she said. “You may be struggling with calculus, but somebody down the hall may excel at it.”

Tri Sigma member Nicole Turney of Greenbrier agreed.

“I’m very excited about getting the house,” Turney said. “I think it’ll make a big difference in our panhellenic sisterhood and make us grow.”

The sophomore said it will help foster unity among the sororities, too.

“We’re going to be neighbors, and you get to know your neighbors,” Turney said.

Irizarry said some people tend to imagine the worst when they hear about Greek life in college.

“People tend to think Animal House, but that’s a myth that gets passed on,” Irizarry said, referring to the movie. “They forget about the philanthropy and the fact that members have to keep a certain grade point. If you don’t have the grades, you don’t get to participate.”

Turney referred to UCA President Tom Courtway’s comments at the groundbreaking that Greeks “are the leaders” on campus.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Courtway told the sororities the day was a “tribute” to them.

“It shows you the belief the board of trustees has in the Greek system,” Courtway said. “It shows you the belief the board of trustees has in each one of you individually, and we thank you for that.”

The Tri Sigmas will build on the corner of Donaghey and College avenues, which several members said they think is a prime location. The Tri Sigmas and two other sororities will have houses on Donaghey Avenue. The Alpha Sigma Tau and Sigma Kappa sororities will be built on nearby Augusta Avenue.

Turney said the houses will bring sororities “more into the Conway community” by being near such busy streets. She said she thinks the Greek Village project will help UCA and Conway grow.

“Growth is happening, and that’s one of the reasons [for the project],” said Lindsey Osborne, assistant director of student life/Panhellenic and Independent Greek Council adviser. “It’s an opportunity for sororities to grow and have a house that’s theirs.”

She said 584 women were in sororities in the fall.

“The other part of it is increasing the visibility of our Greek system. It’s a flagship project that makes a statement,” she said.”It’s really a big picture, … wanting them to have ownership in the community.”

She said members of Greek organizations, compared to non-Greeks, have higher grade-point averages, a higher graduation rate and, on average, are involved in two

non-Greek organizations.

The five houses, with 32 beds each, are expected to be completed in 2015, Osborne said. Nabholz Construction Services is the general contractor. The Greek community center will offer meeting rooms for sororities not large enough to have houses, which are Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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