New Marshall Center keeps pace with busy students

While the closed sidewalk and dust from the new Marshall Center construction site are temporary nuisances, its predicted opening in spring 2009 will offer features that make the new center more accessible to students from the ground up.

Hungry students can still choose from campus staples at lunchtime. Sbarro, Chik-fil-A, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Bleecker Street Deli, Miso Sushi and Noodle Bar all plan to transfer to the new location. Moe’s Southwest Grill, Ben & Jerry’s and Beef O’Brady’s will be new choices.

“Right now we have 200 seats – this is going to have closer to 600 seats,” Marshall Center Director Joe Synovec said. “We’ve tried to set it up so students can decide what their mood is, whether they want to study, meet with friends or people-watch.”

The area between Beef O’Brady’s and the new Safe Team office makes up the modified version of the Marshall Center basement, which is the only area to be reduced in size. The Basement Band Series area will have a new – albeit smaller – stage large enough for a guitarist or poetry performance, Synovec said. The WBUL radio station office will be directly behind the stage. Pool tables and dartboards will be set up in the stretch in front of the stage.

Plenty of additional seating is in the new building’s design. On every level, students will find more space to spread out and meet up with friends. The extra seating should alleviate the oft-crowded Library.

“On the second floor, there are four study rooms for students who want to study for tests together or work on a group project,” Synovec said. “They will have a conference table and a dry erase board with about six chairs per table, so it’s just really for small groups.”

Students not looking for a quiet place to read can meet in the Plaza Room on the second floor. Referred to as the “student playroom” by construction manager Susan Smith because of its many possible functions, this multipurpose room is likely the best place for students to freely socialize.

“All of the meeting rooms are carpeted except for the Plaza Room because they want it to be a little more informal and comfortable for students. There will be a stage in the back area for shows or pageants,” Synovec said.

Student artists get to keep their space in the Centre Gallery. Director of Operations Adam Kitzerow explained that the new gallery will be slightly larger and have more storage space.

“We’ve put it in what we think is the key, most visible spot in the building. As you come up to the second floor either via the elevators or the grand stairway, everyone on their way to the ballroom will have to (pass by) it. We’re going to make it much higher-end, appearance-wise. When you come in, it’s going to have a hardwood floor in the foyer area, and then it’s going to have a stained concrete floor in the majority of the exhibit area,” Synovec said.

To relieve the daily stress of classes, a serenity room will be placed on the third floor. These tranquil areas are sometimes found in airports to ease stressed passengers traveling long distances. At USF, it will offer an alternative to finding peace in the Library or a dorm room.

“It’s also a room where Muslim students can go to meet their prayer requirements, which they have to do five times a day,” Synovec said. “The only other feature we’ve added to the room is to assist the Muslim students. They have a requirement before they go into a room to pray that they have to wash their feet and their hands, and we’ve created a foot wash basin area.”

Perhaps the most prominent installation is the Student Life Tower.

“Everything students do to get involved and engaged in school is going to be in this one quadrant of the building,” said Synovec. This includes Student Government.

Some student organizations anticipate the possibility of expanding their programs and outreach to students after the move.

“Gaining space will allow us to better serve students,” said Nick Whitesell, student organizations coordinator for the Center for Student Involvement. “The Center for Student Involvement is the one-stop shop for students to get involved on campus. There will be slow expansion at first, depending on funding and staffing.”

Whitesell said the center plans to reach out specifically to commuter students looking for more ways to participate in campus activities.

The Student Life Tower is also the future location of the Marshall Center computer and print lab, boasting more than 100 computer stations. The lab will be divided between the first and second floor and have its own stairwell. That will allow it to stay open 24 hours a day, if necessary, with SG funding. While there is not a strong need for a 24-hour lab, it is a possibility during midterms and finals.

Special events and ceremonies will have their own new space in the Oval Theater.

Its auditorium-style seating “will be used for Movies on the Lawn for cold days. It will be great for the University Lecture Series because it is designed for two levels. When there are smaller audiences, only the lower level will be used, but for larger audiences, like (when) Spike Lee (visited), the whole auditorium can hold about 700 people,” Synovec said.