Memorial Union renovation plans updated

Renovation slated to begin October 2005

3/16/05 gmt

HAYS, KS -- Student accommodations have been a major focus at Fort Hays State University this academic year with the construction of new campus apartments and the announcement of renovation of the Memorial Union.

? Renovation to the Union is planned because the building is in major need of upgrading and modernization,? said Bill Smriga (SMREE-guh), director of the Memorial Union. ?It's a well maintained building, but it's been somewhat dormant. The renovation will definitely bring the building back to life and attract students and others to the Union more often.?

Smriga said another reason for renovation is to update the infrastructure. Much of the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems are the same since the Union was originally built in 1958. The building will get modern, energy-efficient windows, doors and a new roof. As Smriga put it, ?There?s a lot of things to the ?fabric? of the building that will receive attention.?

Each of the three levels of the Memorial Union will be renovated.

The lower level will be entirely remodeled and will house the new student activities area called Cody Commons, as well as the student organization offices, Student Health Center, a computer cyber center with wireless access throughout the building, part of the University Bookstore and a deli food outlet.

Next to the food court on the first floor, a large opening will allow access to a staircase leading downstairs to Cody Commons and the tables, chairs and lounge seating areas. Cody Commons will also house a stage, tiered seating, TV monitors, and a surround-sound system.

" When we toured other campuses' unions, we didn't see anything as nice as what we've got planned for Union lower level," Smriga said. "It will be very cool."

Cody Commons is named after a building that served the university as a dining hall before it was torn down for expansion of the present day Memorial Union. The new activities area will be named in honor of the former Cody Commons because it will stand in the same location as the original building.

The first floor will house a newly designed food court, the ?Grab-N-Go? convenience store, Tiger Cove, The Student Service Center, Commerce Bank, University Mail Center and Sunset Lounge. A new elevator will be built near the stairwell on the southeast end of the Union.

One major addition will be an atrium in the new reception lobby.

? It will be a much more attractive entrance from the west side of the building than the current entrance, Smriga said. ?We?re envisioning a two-story atrium, with a multi-level canopy leading from the doors to the sidewalk.?

An architect's rendering of the atrium and final floor plans will be presented to Smriga and the Union renovation committee on March 29.

With Commerce Bank's former location serving as a new meeting room, the only other changes to the second floor will be renovation of the union administrative offices and ID card office.

Changes will also be made to the outside of the building. New sidewalks will allow easier access to the union and outside seating areas will be added. The east patio will be aesthetically and functionally revamped to include patio furniture, plants and more electrical outlets.

? Right now, we have to run extension cords out of our windows for many events happening in the Quad,? Smriga said.

Renovation is estimated at $7.2 million by the architects. Construction will begin in October and is expected to be complete by Spring, 2007.

To help fund the renovation, the Student Government Association (SGA) conducted a successful referendum in November, 2003 to increase student fees, asking students to pay $6 per credit hour for the Union?s renovation bonds. Additional funding will come from the Union reserve fund, University reserves and contributions from the University Bookstore and Chartwells Food Service.

During the renovation, Smriga said, the Union will operate as normally as possible.

" We're going to keep the building open and operate with as little interference to meetings, dinners and special events as possible," he said. "That's going to be our challenge -- to maintain consistent service throughout the renovation. Much of the second floor will not be renovated, so most of the meetings and banquets should occur without interference. There will be days when the construction activity will be noisy, or the water or electricity will be disrupted, but we plan to closely coordinate the renovation work with our meeting and event schedule."

Smriga has regularly met with the Union Renovation Committee (a committee of students, faculty and staff), with Dana Cunningham, director of facilities planning, and with the architects to review the renovation plans. The group is expected to discuss the final floor plans and atrium when they are submitted at the end of the month.

Renovation progress will be documented on a three-panel bulletin board underneath the stairwell in Sunset Lounge as well as on an upcoming Web site. Currently, the bulletin board displays highlights from the new layout, news clips and floor plans for all three levels.

Smriga said he wants to keep people as informed as possible about the process in order to minimize confusion and allow groups to plan around the construction schedule.

" We'll have to be creative in what we do to accommodate the needs of people who want to use the building," Smriga said. "There will be a lot of interesting changes happening to this building, but the results will be well worth it!?

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