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COR: Willerton elaborates on Activities Center

Liz O'Donnell | Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Members of the Council of Representatives (COR) discussed the future of the LaFortune Student Center and plans for the new Student Activities Center in their meeting Tuesday evening.

Ryan Willerton, the Facilities Director for Student Activities Office was on hand to discuss plans for LaFortune, and to discuss the current concept for the new Student Activities Center.

Willerton said there are four primary facilities available for student activities: the Stepan Center; the Creek House, a local retreat facility located off campus; LaFortune; and outdoor grounds available for sporting events.

He said that there are strategic plans to ensure these places operate as efficiently as possible.

The budget allotted to renovations in the building comes from a variety of sources, Willerton said.

A portion of the budget is allotted for building maintenance, he said.

The majority of the funding comes from six different projects, which include the end of the year shipping program, the summer linen mailing, and the “Irish Express” bookstore outlets around campus during football weekends. Funding also comes from the on-campus cake service, exam kits and money generated from the video arcade.

When the funding is available, Willerton said that they consider the suggestion boxes that are located in LaFortune for ideas to better the building. He also said that they regularly collect feedback from student managers, as well as members of student government.

From there, if it is decided that there is enough money available to make large scale changes to LaFortune, Willerton said they will approach student government and ask them to create a panel to represent the student voice.

One specific area Willerton addressed was the renovations that are projected to take place to the video arcade that is located in the basement of the building.

“Since the video arcade is located in the part of LaFortune that is the old building, water comes into the arcade when it rains, often seeping into the basement,” Willerton said. “We want to repair the leaks, install carpets, and do it right from the start.”

Willerton also said that they are hoping to move forward with the project starting in 2010.

Student body president Bob Reish asked Willerton about the size of LaFortune in comparison to student centers on other campuses, sighting that LaFortune is relatively small given the size of the campus’s population.

Willerton said LaFortune has a different focus than student centers on other college campuses.

“The mission of the student center is to be similar to a village well where people go to find the news of the day, meet up with their friends or grab a bite to eat,” said Willerton. “We could always have more room, and it would be nice to expand, but we would never give up the central location that it has.”

In addition to this, Willerton said the new Student Activities Center that will be built is to serve the purpose of complementing LaFortune, rather than detracting from it.

It is projected that the cost of the center will be approximately $30 million. They are currently waiting for a benefactor to fund the project before it can begin.

The Student Activities Center will be a multipurpose facility that will host lectures, concerts and dances. It will also have a large ballroom area where Residence Hall dances will take place. It will not be a hangout area the way that LaFortune is, but function rather like the Stepan Center does now, he said.

Along with these events, the Center will also have a meeting room that Willerton said will help lower the demand for meeting time at LaFortune.

The Center is planned to be constructed 100 yards east of the Stepan Center on the North side of campus. Once the Center is in place, the Stepan Center will be removed.

When COR members expressed concern at the location of the Center, Willerton explained that while the building will go up on the perimeter of campus, it is still a part of it.

“While you may not walk by this building everyday, it is still a part of campus,” Willerton said. “The location provides easier access to off-campus students.”

While the location for the project has been selected, there are only tentative floor plans available. Current plans call for the Center to be a one-floor building. ­­