WACO, Texas (FOX 44) – Baylor University has announced a $5 million gift from John and Helen Carona, of Dallas. The university says this provides significant momentum and support for the renovation and construction of the Honors Residential College, as well as the other priorities through the Give Light Capital Fund.

In recognition of their transformational gift, Baylor will name the Carona Family Commons at the Honors Residential College and the Carona Family Premium Entry in the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion. The Carona family’s gift to support the Honors Residential College represents another step toward the university’s fundraising goals – combining with a $1.5 million challenge grant from the Mabee Foundation announced in May.

The university says that the Honors Residential College (HRC) project involves the renovation and expansion of two of its oldest residential halls – the Alexander and Memorial Halls. The two buildings will be connected by the now-named Carona Family Commons – a new building architecturally and functionally uniting the two residence halls. 

On the ground level, the Carona Family Commons provides new public access to the Memorial Dining Hall and Alexander Reading Room, along with a new outdoor courtyard. On upper floors, it enhances residential life through a learning center, study rooms, gaming area, lounge spaces and a community kitchen.

Another project element includes refurbishing and consolidating offices for the Honors College’s faculty and professional staff in the adjacent Draper Academic Building. The university will fund $50.5 million of the project through funds from its deferred maintenance plan, with fundraising providing the remainder of the $57.75 million capital project.

The project is slated to begin later this month, and is planned to be completed by the start of the 2024-2025 academic year. The university says this fulfills key commitments of the Illuminate strategic plan to improve students’ residential campus experiences and to improve the Honors College.

A portion of the family’s gift also will benefit the Give Light Capital Fund, which supports the capital priorities of the Give Light campaign – Baylor’s comprehensive fundraising campaign which has seen the Baylor Family give more than $1.33 billion to support initiatives within Illuminate. For more information, or to support the Give Light campaign, you can visit the Give Light website.

The Carona Family Premium Entry at Foster Pavilion will serve as one of four entry points for Baylor fans to the new home for Baylor Basketball. The Pavilion, a 223,547-square-foot facility, will hold a more than 7,000 fans – with improved sight lines and access to concessions through an integrated concourse. In addition, two 2,000-square-foot video end boards will help to cultivate a boisterous home-court advantage to rival other facilities in the conference.

The university says that with the construction of Foster Pavilion, the Ferrell Center will serve as the full-time home of Women’s Volleyball and Acrobatics and Tumbling – creating dedicated practice facilities for both teams, who will no longer share time on practice courts with the basketball programs. The Fudge Center’s weight room also will move Baylor Football from the Simpson Center’s performance center, creating greater access for the other sports who share this significant resource.

Site preparation and groundwork began on Foster Pavilion in March 2022, with an expected opening of the Pavilion in January 2024. Construction will continue on the Jay and Jenny Allison Development Center after the Pavilion’s completion, with a later opening expected in Summer 2024.

The Foster Pavilion complex is located along the Brazos River on the west side of Interstate 35, adjacent to Baylor’s Robinson Tower and further connecting Baylor’s campus to Robinson Tower and downtown Waco.

If you would like to view more renderings and learn additional details about this project, you can visit the Baylor Athletics website.