Marshall Center construction begins

After years of talking and several months of planning, construction crews will set up shop this week to start the first phase of construction for the new Phyllis P. Marshall Center – the demolition of the Special Events Center.

Workers will gradually fence off the SEC throughout the week, and will have the structure behind chain link fencing and wind screening by Friday, according to Joe Synovec, assistant director of the Marshall Center.

It’s the first step of a long process set to end in spring 2008 with the opening of the new Marshall Center on the site of the SEC.

The construction will bring some hassles for drivers on campus, however. The west side of Cedar Circle and the portion of Cedar Circle between the SEC and the north entrance of the Marshall Center will be completely closed off to both cars and pedestrians beginning July 17. The east side of Cedar Circle that connects to the Crescent Hill Parking Garage will not be closed off in order to keep a road connecting the Marshall Center loading docks to Holly Drive and to keep the garage accessible.

From that point on, the main north entrance to the Marshall Center will be closed until the present Marshall Center is demolished in spring 2008. All of the south entrances will remain open as well as the north entrance to the food court, which is to the east of the main north entrance.

The Bull Runner shuttle will also be affected by the closing of Cedar Circle. Both the E and D routes have stops on Cedar Circle at the North entrance to the Marshall Center that will disappear as a result of the construction. The stops will be replaced by one on Holly Drive near the Cedar Circle entrance to the Crescent Hill Garage.

Synovec is convinced the new Marshall Center will be well worth the wait.

“There’s a little inconvenience and a little pain to get to the final reward,” Synovec said. “It’s going to be the best student union in the Southeast.”

The construction crews will spend the remainder of July setting up shop and dealing with utilities and piping.

The razing of the SEC, as well as the Skyway connecting the Marshall Center to the SEC, will start the first week of August. It is scheduled to be completed by early October. Following that, the west patio of the Marshall Center will be demolished.

The new Marshall Center will cover the SEC’s footprint and will have a branch on the west side jutting out over where the west patio of the Marshall Center is now. It will be approximately 230,000 square feet, which is more than twice the size of the present Marshall Center, which is 106,000 square feet.

The Marshall Center is slated for demolition in spring 2008 after the removal of everything that needs to be moved into the new facility. The site of the old Marshall Center will then be made into an extension of the MLK Plaza and be landscaped with gardens, courtyards and walkways.

While the specifics of the new Marshall Center are still being tweaked, there is a lot of information available.

According to Synovec, the new building will have a sports grill comparable to a Bennigan’s or a Chili’s, a two-story computer lab, a 600-seat food court, a 700-seat auditorium/theater and several different kinds of lounges.

“The Student Union is the hub of the student life, and it’s a center for students to call their home – and this is going to be one heck of a mansion,” Synovec said.

The demolition zone will also include the poles – more accurately known as “ballast rods” – recently painted as a result of Student Government’s Paint the Poles project, which took place this past spring.

Dozens of student organizations painted logos and designs onto the poles lining Cedar Circle.

According to Student Body President Frank Harrison, the ballast rods, which are hundreds of pounds and go deep underground, will be destroyed with the rest of the SEC because it would be too impractical to save them.

SG is encouraging student groups who painted poles to take as many pictures as they can with them before they are enclosed in the construction zone.