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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Corbett Center Student Union renovation to begin

Construction for New Mexico State University?s Corbett Center Student Union renovation is scheduled to begin by Feb. 28 and will last approximately 14 months. Wooten Construction Company of Las Cruces was awarded the contract earlier this month.

A woman points at a building map.
Julie Weber, NMSU director of housing and campus life, points out a feature on the plans for the Corbett Center Student Union renovation. The renovation is scheduled to begin this month. (NMSU photo by Emily C. Kelley)

?The scope of the project is pretty extensive. The goal is to create a student-friendly, student-centered building, so a lot of the project is making it the kind of space students want,? said Julie Weber, NMSU director of housing and campus life. ?Some of the criticism we?ve always taken about this building that it is a heavily meeting-space building, and students can?t use it and can?t feel at home here. There?s not enough drop-in space, not enough lounge space.?

Weber said that student concerns will be addressed in the project, including converting the old bookstore space at the west end of the building into a giant, two-story multipurpose student lounge, that can be used as drop-in space, an entertainment venue and a programmatic space. All of the direct student-involvement offices like Campus Activities, Greek Life and ASNMSU will move into that space, centered in the complex.

Most of the meeting rooms will be removed from the second floor, relocating the majority of the conference facilities into one location on the third floor. The second floor will contain more study nooks, but many of them will be private study rooms surrounded by glass.

?The glass study rooms will allow students to be right at the heart of things, but still have quiet,? Weber said.

The Dean of Students office and Campus Activities will move to where ASNMSU currently is, and the computer lab will move from the periphery to the center of the building. The current computer lab location will revert to a game room, as it once was.

The whole second floor will change to a curved promenade look, rather than a long, straight hall. Many glass features will give the building a more open feel, and the second floor will look over into outdoor space, instead of the hallway ending of abruptly.

?We are very fortunate that the budget for the project will allow us to fix some infrastructure things and get in some projects that we weren?t sure would make it into the budget,? Weber said. ?For example, the outdoor stage on the east end of the building is getting a canopy and sound system built into it, so it?s easier for us to use that venue for events.?

Infrastructure improvements include converting the building?s electrical system so that a backup generator can be used in the event of a power outage, which is a key update, as campus residential foodservice is located at Corbett. The ballroom floor and ceiling will be replaced, along with the roof of the building.

?Probably the thing that we?ve heard the most positive reaction to is that we are going to improve the technological infrastructure of the building,? Weber said. ?Right now, our biggest complaint is that if there?s a conference upstairs on the third floor and everyone is trying to access wireless, very quickly the wireless system in this building is full.?

Corbett will go from the current wireless capacity of about 300 users to about 1,700 once the project is complete. The technology upgrades will also allow users to have continuous access while in the building, rather than getting knocked off one of 26 current wireless access points and not being able to access the next while walking through the building. There will be 70 wireless access points enabling continuous service while in the building.

Other features of the renovation project include a nondenominational, nonreservable meditation space on the second floor that can be divided into two private rooms with curtains, and three ?cones of silence? that will allow students working under the cones to listen to audio or video without anyone nearby hearing the audio.

The renovated Corbett Center Student Union will have a distinct NMSU Aggie look to it, created with logos, pictures or memorabilia ? even logos in the carpeting. And, Weber even hopes to get a large flat screen television in the building.

?I?m lobbying for a giant 90-inch flat screen television on the wall because it?s one of my little pet peeves ? there?s a million TV screens in this building, but you cannot watch television on them,? Weber said. ?When things happen, like the Super Bowl, a world event or the WAC Basketball Tournament, it?s really hard for us to watch it, and nobody knows to go there to watch it, because there?s nothing to watch it on.?

The biggest challenge expected during the 14-month renovation is that the building doesn?t get to close during the renovation. The contractor will do a phased approach, starting at the west end, since the old bookstore is vacant, and as areas are finished, people will move into their new, completed spaces.

Weber said that one goal during construction is to review policies, procedures and operating hours to truly make the building more student-centered, such as making key areas like the computer lab, meditation room, student lounge and game room accessible 24 hours per day.

Taos Restaurant will not change, as it was recently renovated.

?The most important thing to us is that this project, in the end, turns this building into a student union that the students are just really happy with and really comfortable in. What?s that Field of Dreams line? If you build it, they will come? I keep telling people it?s not build it and they will come, it?s build it, program it, manage the procedures, make it friendly for students, and then they will come. That?s the most important thing. It?s about making a center of campus that people comfortable in, and students, in particular, feel like it?s their student union,? Weber said.

The project is expected to be complete by April 2015.