Someone once told me that if Amarillo had been chosen as the home for what was known as West Texas Normal School, what is now West Texas A&M University today would be the size of Texas Tech University.
WT would enroll 30,000-plus students rather than just a shade less than 8,000 who attend school’s Canyon campus.
Still, the news that WT is purchasing the Commerce Building in downtown Amarillo and relocating its downtown operations from the Chase Tower to a new campus setting is good news for the school and, I hope, for the development of the downtown business district.
WT is getting some foundation grant help as well as financial aid from the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation to make the move.
As I understand it, WT plans to renovate completely the Commerce Building, from which existing businesses are relocating. The university plans also to dress up the area around the building, creating what they have referred to as a “campus atmosphere.”
Most interesting of all is that WT’s downtown Amarillo operation enrollment has far exceeded what the school had projected when it opened in the Chase Tower. The student enrollment is about 75 percent greater than expected, with more than 1,000 students attending classes in three floors of the 31-story office tower.
WT’s century-old presence in Canyon, of course, is well-established. Think, though, of the possibilities if the downtown Amarillo campus takes off. Might there be incentive to grow the Amarillo campus even more?
It’s heartening as well to see the relationship between West Texas A&M and Amarillo begin to blossom. There hasn’t always been that kind of warmth. Both the city and the university will reap yet untold rewards if they continue to build on it.