KEARNEY – After 70 years of serving local college students in temporary facilities, the Catholic Newman Center at UNK plans to build a permanent home at University Village.
Currently, the Newman Center operates out of seven different houses and garages. A converted garage, with room for only 100 people, serves as the Newman Center’s chapel. There isn’t a central location where students can gather as one community for fellowship, faith formation, meals and retreats. Staff work from offices in two of the houses.
“The lack of a dedicated Newman Center hinders us from fully exercising our mission,” said Fr. Neal Hock, chaplain of the UNK Newman Center. “We want to reach out to students, help them encounter Christ and grow in their faith. But our current facilities limit the number of students we can reach and do not serve as a welcoming environment.”
The master plan calls for the construction of a three-story center at University Village, a public-private development just south of UNK’s main campus. At approximately 24,000 square feet, the Catholic Newman Center will feature:
- An inspiring worship space and Adoration chapel with seating for up to 300.
- Offices for staff, campus ministry student leaders and FOCUS missionaries.
- A variety of multipurpose spaces.
- Space for individual and group study.
- Classrooms that encourage intellectual growth and faith formation.
- A student lounge and meeting space for fellowship gatherings.
- Dedicated library space and state-of-the art technology.
- Outdoor gathering space with a fireplace.
- A kitchen and storage area.
- 75-80 parking spaces.
“Our new center will provide the perfect space for us to serve our students,” Hock said. “We’ll have a proper chapel, meal and meeting spaces, offices and more. The new Catholic Newman Center will support college students in Kearney for years to come.”
The Newman Center is currently working with the Steier Group, a Catholic fundraising firm based in Omaha, to conduct a comprehensive campaign planning study. This study will allow the center to gather feedback regarding the proposed plans and determine the level of support for a major fundraising effort. The study will help determine a realistic fundraising goal and identify campaign leaders and potential major donors.
If you would like to participate in the campaign planning study, the online survey is available at steiergroup.com/survey.
The Newman Center has not set specific dates for a fundraising campaign or construction schedule. An initial cost estimate is $11.61 million, according to a flyer outlining the project.
Located along U.S. Highway 30, University Village is a 104-acre, mixed-use development that combines educational, residential, recreational, commercial and community engagement and service opportunities in a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.
Village Flats, an apartment-style housing complex for UNK and UNMC students, staff and faculty, opened there in 2018 and the Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center followed in 2019. Construction is underway on the $48 million Element 30 housing project and retail space, as well as the $8.8 million Ernest Grundy Tennis Center. A $15.6 million Regional Engagement and Alumni Center is planned for construction soon with a targeted opening date of early 2023.