With the swipe of his university ID, MTSU Student Government Association President James Lee watched the mechanical arm gate smoothly rise, allowing him to drive his black sports coupe ahead to officially open one of two new student parking garages on campus.
A large crowd of students, faculty, staff and administrators gathered in the bottom level of the four-deck, 495-space structure for a brief ceremony and light refreshments around midday Thursday. Lee, a senior finance major from Clarksville, Tenn., opened the MTSU Boulevard Garage connected to the new Student Services and Admissions Center still under construction.
“We’re extremely excited to see the result of our campus coming together to better the university,” Lee told the crowd before his inaugural spin to the fourth deck. “My fellow students and I now have the peace of mind not having to worry about parking before heading to class.”
Students paid for the $23.5 million garages through fees instituted a few years ago. Built by Messer Construction, the two four-deck structures will add almost 1,000 net parking spaces to a growing campus that has been challenged for years with providing adequate parking near the campus core.
MTSU senior C.J. Horton, a math education major from Savannah, Tenn., was among numerous students on hand for the grand opening. Horton lives off campus and was happy to see his commute get a little easier.
“Parking has been difficult in the past, and this is going to help me and a lot of other people I know,” he said. “This is going to be a massive improvement to campus.”
“It’s going to be helpful,” added senior Elijah Longwell, a communication studies major from Dickson. “Coming late to class won’t be as big of a deal because we’ll have more parking now.”
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee applauded the students for investing in the campus’ future.
“Thirteen years ago, when I became president of this university, one of the first things I heard when I walked around campus … was parking and the need for parking,” McPhee said. “The grand opening of this wonderful addition to our landscape has been in the making for many years.”
The MTSU Boulevard Garage includes a walking bridge that will run through the new Student Services building and across Blue Raider Drive, eventually connecting to the second floor of the Student Union.
The other garage, located on the north side of campus next to the Holmes Building on Champion Way, will be known as the Champion Way Garage.
While road construction along Champion and Lightning Way over the next several months may limit access to this garage, the goal is for one of the entrances to be open at all times.
Security features for each garage include an open design for improved visibility, such as stairwells covered by a heavy wire mesh material rather than solid walls. The garages also feature enhanced lighting that brightens and dims according to motion, and security cameras will monitor the garages’ entries and exits. Both garages also have elevators.
“These are garages that were built by students, for students,” Ron Malone, assistant vice president for events and transportation, told the crowd. “Students, this is for you.”
Faculty, staff and visitors will also be able to use the garages — if they’re willing to pay. Non-students can access the garages through an automated ticket system that will cost $10 a day for anyone parking for longer than 15 minutes.
A surface lot east of the new Student Services and Admissions Center also will open later this fall, providing another 670-plus parking spaces for students.
— Jimmy Hart (email@example.com)