New Student Union awaits August opening — wi...

New Student Union awaits August opening — with photos!

The shiny new pearl on MTSU’s burgeoning east side of campus continues to grow toward a late-August 2012 opening.

With the MTSU crest composed of multicolored terrazzo dominating the foreground, this is a view of the front-desk area on the first floor of the almost-completed Student Union Building. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

The gem is the $65 million, nearly 211,000-square-foot Student Union Building. Nestled next to the year-old College of Education building to the west and the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building to the south, the new Student Union will be the trendy place for students and others to gather.

“Overall, we’re tremendously excited about the opening of the new union and about the impact we think it will have on the campus community,” said Dr. Deb Sells, vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services.

“The new facility is really unlike anything our current and recent students have ever had the chance to experience.”

The Student Union Building, which officially will open when fall 2012 semester classes begin, is expected become a favorite retreat for all who use the facility.

“Up ’til now, the KUC (Keathley University Center) has been more about administrative offices and food service than about really being a gathering place for students,” Sells said.

“While the new Student Union is architecturally beautiful, what’s most important is that it is designed to be a real home for students. I think students are going to have a lot of fun exploring the building and finding their favorite lounge or seminar room or balcony or seating area next to the huge windows—little nooks and crannies that they love to use.

“This new building will truly be the gathering space for the campus,” added Sells. “Much like the ‘family room’ in the home, this building is meant to be lived in and enjoyed. It’s meant to be a place for students, faculty and staff to interact and just hang out.”

Students attending MTSU this fall and in the future will be beneficiaries of MTSU’s newest addition.

“The new Student Union building is an incredible addition to our great institution,” said 2012-13 Student Government Association President Coby Sherlock, a senior from New Orleans, La., majoring in political science.

This shows an exterior view of the new MTSU Student Union Building. The building will open to the public in late August.

“This building is dedicated to the student body, and I am proud that the students will have a place on campus that will enhance the community and family-style atmosphere that MTSU possesses. It is a building that will provide us with various dining options, including a sit-down restaurant for students to take a break and relax while enjoying a great meal.”

The new facility continues to catch attention across campus at MTSU, which last fall saw a record enrollment of 26,430 students and remains the largest undergraduate university in Tennessee.

“Anytime anything new comes on campus, people are really excited. This is no exception,” said Sarah Sudak, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

Messer Construction workers have been working long—and hot—hours building the facility.

“It’s where it needs to be,” said Sudak, noting that construction is on schedule for the building that will succeed the 45-year-old Keathley University Center in the central campus. The KUC was the successor to the now-60-year-old James Union Building on MTSU’s west side.

“We’ve still got a lot to do in order to move in. It will be ready to go in August.”

The impressive building—“It’s a football field and a half,” Sudak said of the size—will serve students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and friends of the University and others well into MTSU’s second century. The structure’s overall magnitude, the use of stone and architectural design in various parts of the building, and the variety of floor types add to the luster.

The first floor features:

• Phillips Bookstore;
• six new food-service venues;
• a 640-seat food court and a 102-seat casual-dining restaurant;
• a game room; and
• an ATM area, copy center, lounge areas and email stations.

The second floor features:

• an 840-seat ballroom with a green room and two dressing rooms;
• an 84-seat parliamentary room and a 95-seat video theater;
• a formal meeting and dining area;
• a collaborative computer center;
• two large, two medium and three small conference rooms, and three small seminar rooms; and
• lounge spaces that include collaborative technology, email check stations, flat-screen TVs, a fireplace and seminar rooms.

The third floor features:

• offices for the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, Student Organization, Student Government and Student Unions and Programming;
• two small seminar rooms; and
• a television lounge and other lounge spaces that include collaborative technology.

“There finally will be room for an expanded calendar of student activities, and we intend to take full advantage of that this fall,” said Sells. “Students should expect to see activities in the Union most days of the week and throughout the weekend.

“There are places for acoustic music near the eating areas; sports and other TV viewing options in the restaurant and lounges; space in the ballroom for concerts and productions; a game room for pool and video games; a collaborative computing space for group work; a video theater for movies; and comfy seating and beautiful windows for those who want to read in the new bookstore.”

Sherlock and his fellow SGA officers are looking forward not only to their new office space but also the parliamentary room.

“I am personally excited about the new parliamentary room that our senate will be meeting in beginning in this year,” he said. “The new Student Union Building is very special for our students, and we are excited for its opening in the fall.”

Both the JUB and KUC will continue to be used by students, faculty, staff and others. The JUB’s popular Tennessee Room and Hazlewood Dining Room will remain available to reserve for events.

You can view a slideshow of more photos of the new Student Union Building below. Click on the slideshow image to see larger images; click on the “Show info” tab to see details about each photo.

— Randy Weiler (