The Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees approved a $3 million increase in the massive McNeal Pavilion rehabilitation project at a special meeting Tuesday, and agreed to consider extending the contract of university President Roy Saigo.

The adjustment in the pavilion project budget goes to cover relocation of the SOU fitness center from under Raider Stadium to the new Student Recreation Center to be built next to McNeal Pavilion. That center is to be paid for by future student fees.

The unanimous vote of the board enables Craig Morris, SOU's vice president for finance and administration, to move forward with contractors and architects on plans to increase the scope of the project, said Ryan Brown, SOU spokesman.

University officials said under the previous design, the athletic complex lacked sufficient locker room and office space for academic and athletic staff. The added project will take 18 months to complete and will occur along with the $21.8 million upgrade of McNeal. The overall project, which was funded by the Legislature in 2014, is intended to improve seismic safety, disabled access and general issues related to aging of the facility.

The board also voted unanimously to consider a one-year extension of Saigo's two-year contract, which currently expires June 30, 2016. Saigo was hired in 2014 as interim president following the departure of Mary Cullinan, who resigned to become president at Eastern Washington University.

Board members discussed the length of time it takes to do a nationwide search for a new president due to its complexity, and how that time window is now limited. Tuesday's vote, said Brown, supports exploration of the contract extension among constituent groups, including faculty, staff, students and the governor’s office.

The vote was not a vote to extend the contract but only a go-ahead to gather information for a vote of the Board of Trustees, whose sole purview it is, says Brown. Comments expressed about Saigo were all positive, he adds.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.