Administration takes first small step in the long process to construct the new Student Union
The administration has taken the first initiative toward the next major project on campus: The Student Union and Morrison Commons renovation project.
Before Thanksgiving break, the Student Union Project Committee (SUP) was formed to draft concrete plans for the renovation of the Morrison Commons and the construction of the Student Union.
While talks and planning are still in the exploratory stages, there are some details that have been discussed and others that certainly need to be addressed. One such detail that needs addressing is the expansion of workout space available to students.
Recent surveys show that, since 2010, more students are using cardio equipment, and as enrollment numbers continue to rise, space has become a major concern to students, prompting many to purchase memberships at off-campus fitness centers.
According to a survey taken in spring of 2015, 23 percent of students have an off-campus gym membership. Lindsey Taft is one of these students. Taft rates her satisfaction level with the Elmen facilities a two out of five.
Because of the lack of space, Taft said, “I go to a new gym now that has everything I need, and I never have the problem of waiting to use a piece of equipment. I know many other students seek out gyms that require traveling in a car rather than walking to the Elmen to work out. It shows that the Elmen is neither their, nor my, first choice [for exercising] even if it is closer and a part of our tuition.”
The increasing dissatisfaction with Elmen Center facilities is not only a concern of the students, but also a concern of the Elmen staff.
Mark Hecht, the director of recreational services, has said that to deal with congestion in the workout facilities, the new facility will have to be larger by a factor of three and increase the number of both cardio and strength machines.
“There’s not a place for students to go if they want to play pickup basketball, volleyball or tennis between two and seven, because that is athletic time,” Hecht said. One of his major concerns is “getting some additional court space that is specifically for student recreation.”
The expansion of the workout facilities is of the foremost importance, but it is not the only part of the project.
In conjunction with building the new activities center onto the commons building, there are plans to renovate and expand existing space in the commons.
President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Ali Langseth, chair of the SUP committee, declined to comment.
However, ASA President Katelyn Graber and Vice President Luke Hurley said that, in addition to the expansion of athletic facilities, the renovation will expand the amount of study and leisure spaces available to students currently in the commons.
ASA was assigned the task of deciding how many study and leisure spaces students would like to see in the new building and what the spaces will exactly encompass.
According to Hecht, one aspect of the project that has been deliberated on for years is the construction of a climbing wall. Surveys conducted in 2010 and 2015 showed that 55 percent and 48 percent of students respectively favor the construction of a climbing wall.
As of right now, the committee is trying to determine what it will include, what it will expand and how many square feet will need to be added to the commons building.
However, there are several challenges facing expansion.
To the west of the Commons, behind the Moses statue, the old Augustana football stadium is buried.
Excavating and removing copious amounts of steel and concrete of the old stadium would be an expensive task.
To the north and east, space is severely limited. If the project expands east, the Ole statue would have to be relocated.
Graber and Hurley said that pertinent information will be sent to architects in January, who will then create building proposals for the committee to consider and approve.
Along with the SUP, there has long been discussion about building an outdoor track facility, according to Mirror archives.
At its first meeting of the year in October, the Board of Trustees heard presentations from athletes and coaches about the need for a track.
According to Dean of Students Jim Bies, the university already has substantial funding for the track from a gift.