Another piece has fit into the puzzle that is the Utah Valley University master plan for expansion.

This week, the school announced the acquisition of a 103,000-square-foot building at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, a process that took two years. The building, which is located at 2912 W. Executive Parkway, was approved for purchase in March 2019 for $22.11 million.

The university opened its satellite campus in 2017 in the same building and has been leasing the property in the meantime.

“Lehi and north Utah County are, without question, great hubs of ideas, innovation and growth,” said Astrid S. Tuminez, president of UVU. “Early in my tenure, I was very excited to learn about Silicon Slopes and the potential synergies between industry and academia. The long-awaited UVU campus at Thanksgiving Point is a physical location that will facilitate these powerful synergies. As we forge closer partnerships with industry, I am confident that students, families, employers and Utah’s economy will be the clear beneficiaries.”

In the fall of 2018, Utah Valley welcomed 39,931 students to its Orem campus. Val Peterson, vice president of Finance and Administration, said the estimated number of students for fall 2020 is 41,211.

With the growth expected to continue, the school implemented a master plan for expansion which was headed by former president Matthew Holland in 2016.

“The master plan idea is to interconnect with mass transit and recreate walkable communities for the students,” Peterson said. “One of the hallmarks of UVU is responding to the educational needs of the community. As we do that, we’re increasing the total of programs available. We’re currently offering 94 bachelor’s degrees and eight masters degrees.”

Currently, UVU has campuses in Orem, Lehi (Thanksgiving Point), Heber (Wasatch Campus), Provo Airport, Vineyard, Capitol Reef Field Station and owns land in Payson. There is a full campus planned where the Geneva Steel Mill used to be.

The Vineyard area already contains the Wolverine Training Dome and in the future more sports facilities will be located in the southern property. There are 125 acres to the north, where the school hopes to build an innovation campus with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and future tech.

The expansion of the FrontRunner system in Utah County is an important piece to the master plan. The newly purchased building is across the street from the FrontRunner station in Lehi.

“We’re trying to be responsive to the growth in IT and the Silicon Slopes idea for those businesses,” Peterson said. “We want the students to have the skills to move forward and provide the educational programs they need in that area. That’s what the north county building is about.”

Peterson said the message he delivered to the faculty this week is that the school plans to have its students on campus in the fall.

“With what is happening with COVID-19, there has been a lot of discussion with online vs. face-to-face classes,” he said. “We have a large portion of students that really want to attend face-to-face classes. We have to balance our online offerings with face-to-face, and we need the facilities to be able to provide those opportunities.”

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!