By Alyssa Sanford
Between Campus Town, the upcoming STEM building and the Brower Student Center renovations, various construction projects are well underway at the College this semester. In the months between commencement and the arrival of the new freshman class, the green fencing around the Student Center has extended, indicating significant progress.
According to Student Center Manager Seth Zolin, the demolition of old spaces and construction of new ones are in progress.
“From my perspective, (the construction team, KSS Architects) have built the temporary office suites in what used to be the game room, George Jackson room and Simon Bolivar room,” Zolin said. “They have cleared the Sundial Lawn in preparation for the building addition and have begun demo of the bookstore space, info desk, box office, Rat, old student organization areas and suite BSC 230.”
Demolition of these spaces will pave the way for modern-looking additions to the 40-year-old building, Zolin said.
Though the ubiquitous presence of trucks, drills and fences might be a tiresome sight for students, administrators hope there are more benefits than drawbacks for the Student Center renovation.
The Student Center, while shutting down basement offices and hotspots like the old college bookstore and the Rathskeller, will allocate spaces for students to hold club meetings or to simply lounge around.
“During the 2015-16 academic year, students will have access to the atrium, which now houses our pool tables and ping pong tables in addition to soft seating; the Lion’s Den; and student organization office spaces in BSC 202,” Zolin said.
Students can also reserve BSC 210 and BSC 211 for events, according to Zolin.
The large space on the ground floor of the Student Center is mostly cordoned off, making it difficult to accommodate as many students as the building did in previous years. Now, residence halls will host students who want a large space for recreational activities.
According to Zolin, Decker Hall will unveil the “Decker Hall Social Space” as a solution to the Student Center’s slightly smaller accommodations.
“A space in the basement of Decker Hall, called the Decker Social Space, is available for reservations and will serve as a replacement for BSC 202,” Zolin said. “The space will hold 242 people and can be configured in multiple room setups.”
Zolin is optimistic that the “Decker Social Space will help alleviate some of the vacuum created by taking BSC 202 off-line.”
Other programs held at the College over the summer could not avoid being affected by the reconstruction project in the Student Center. In spite of the obvious roadblock at the center of campus, programs like Freshmen Orientation thrived without access to the Student Center, according to Lindsay Barndt, chair of the TCNJ Orientation Committee.
“Fortunately, the closure of the Stud did not significantly impact our freshman orientation program this past July,” Barndt said. “While some families might have been inconvenienced trying to get to the bookstore, and the building itself wasn’t the prettiest to look at, I think the majority would say the long-term pros outweigh the short-term cons.”
Barndt looks at the reconstruction efforts as a symbol of exciting changes to come.
“It’s like I always tell visiting prospective students: If a school doesn’t have an ugly green construction fence somewhere on campus, that’s actually a bad thing. It means they’re not investing their resources into bettering the facilities, and thus experiences, for its students,” she said.
Students and alumni bemoaning the closure of the Rathskeller, and the end of small-scale concerts held at the pub on weekend nights, need not worry that the reconstruction project will interfere. According to CUB’s Facebook page, their new program, CUB Alt, will stage shows at new Decker Social Space this semester.
The Student Center is “the hub of campus life,” according to Zolin, and he hopes the reconstruction project, set to be completed in the summer of 2017, will only make that more apparent.