January 19, 2011

Student lounge gets final facelift for spring

Although many students have been slow to call the former Wallace Lounge by its new name, the Seymour Union Student Lounge will be nothing if not new after the current renovation is completed.

Upon returning from winter break, students who descended into the basement of Seymour Union were greeted by a completely gutted room. Construction equipment on the lawn outside the union made it clear that the long-anticipated renovation of the lounge was finally happening.

The lounge, which flooded in early 2007, received new carpeting and a coat of paint last spring. The latest renovation, which aims to turn the lounge into a more versatile space, is on schedule to be completed by spring 2011.

“The lounge will provide club and organization space, programming space and especially hangout space, which we don’t really have a lot of,” Associate Dean of Campus Life Craig Southern said. “To be able to…have a place where you can check out a Wii…I think that’s really cool. That’s not something we’ve had at Knox before.”

Despite a tight capital budget, half of the money for the renovation was set aside during the 2009-2010 academic year and the other half in 2010-2011, totaling approximately $500,000. Plans for the renovated lounge include a big screen TV, a snack bar, a raised stage and plenty of couches and tables for studying or relaxing. Energy-efficient windows will also be installed on the south side of Seymour Union, adding about $100,000 to the cost of the renovation.

The pool tables formerly in the lounge will return, along with a variety of other tabletop games, board games and video game consoles. Survey data collected from students last week by Assistant Director of Campus Life Jil Gates will determine what specific games will be available. According to the survey, popular games include pool, air hockey, ping pong, Apples to Apples, card games, Monopoly, Jenga and classic arcade games such as Pac-Man. The Wii was the most popular gaming console.

Although the renovation is progressing quickly, there are still many logistical issues that will have to be worked out before the lounge’s grand opening.

“Do we want student staff for things like pool balls, or are things going to be run on the honor system? What should the hours be? How often should different groups be able to reserve it? These are all things that will need to be addressed,” Southern said.

Southern plans to table in Seymour Gallery and hold open sessions with students in order to gather opinions on these issues.

Making Use of Space

Although the renovation of the Seymour Union Student Lounge is an important step in addressing Knox’s space needs, Southern still believes that there are other areas on campus that could be turned into leisure areas for students.

The Roger Taylor Lounge, located in the basement of Sherwin House, was once a popular space for meetings and study parties. Now, the lounge stands nearly empty and largely unused, prompting students on the Wiki Fire to call it the Roger Taylor “Room with a rickety table and equally rickety chairs and a TV that probably does not work” Lounge.

“The area…is being completely wasted,” Southern said. “I want to look at what we can do to make it a useful space.”

Southern said he has several ideas both for the Roger Taylor Lounge and other similarly “wasted” spaces around campus. Budgetary issues complicate renovations, but Southern is confident that as space becomes more limited, these areas will become more of a priority.

“We’re very short on space [at Knox],” Southern said. “I definitely think the [Seymour Union] Student Lounge is a step in the right direction.”

Anna Meier

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