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New student lounge to open for fall

More space for work and play is coming to the Marshall Student Center (MSC) with a new and “enhanced” fourth floor student lounge.

The lounge is scheduled to open Aug. 17 and will feature a group study space with LCD screens for student use and a gaming lounge, said MSC Director Joe Synovec.

“We knew we weren’t meeting the needs of the gamers.,” Synovec said. “We knew we didn’t have enough study space. We knew that when we built the building, or soon after we built the building, that we probably didn’t build enough game space. If you’re a student you can only study so much, you can only eat so much, you can only meet so much. Sometimes you just want to play.”

The new lounge was created to better meet the needs of students and address space constraints in the building, he said.

“Last year, I started to realize there was a problem when I was traveling in the elevators,” he said. “Students would get on and I would ask them what floor they were heading to and they would say, ‘Well, we’ll head to the fourth floor and work our way down until we find (an available) space.”

The group study space will include two study pods, each with a 42- or 46-inch LCD screen that students can plug into using their computers.

“Say you have an assignment, your professor says six of you have to do a paper,” he said. “The six of you can come to this little pod, plug in, and all six could be looking at the screen, editing the thing (and) making PowerPoint slides,” he said.

Synovec said the pods will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. There will also be study seating and a vending bar with soda, snack, and coffee machines, as well as a microwave. Another feature of the lounge is its focus on electric power outlets – most apparent in the lounge’s gaming area, which features five LCD screens for game play.

MSC Assistant Director Jennifer Hernandez said student interest in a gaming space was clear by the number of students who would congregate at the fourth-floor seating area outside the elevator to play video games.

“One time they brought in a 19-inch tube TV – it wasn’t even a flat-screen,” Hernandez said. “They lugged this big box, they lugged it up here.”

She said many of these students are associated with various gaming-oriented student organizations and were invited to participate in a focus group with architects designing the lounge.

“It was lengthy, they had a lot to say,” she said. “So we took all kinds of notes and when we reconvened as a staff we said, ‘OK, they said this (request) about four times,’ so we would prioritize the things we really needed to have in the space.”

Those requests included wireless Internet connectivity, easy access to power outlets and audio-video inputs. They also requested the gaming area be flexible, so students could watch others play games, study or play table-top trading card games, said Joseph Mastandrea, a senior majoring in psychology and president of the Video Game Club, who was present for the focus group.

Mastandrea said his club members are “really looking forward to the new lounge,” which will benefit everyone who normally congregates on the fourth floor outside the elevators.

“The fourth floor is not only home to a lot of video game enthusiasts, but a lot of the nerdy groups who like to hang out up there,” he said. “People who like to play trading card games, people who like anime, play video games and that kind of stuff. Frankly, a lot of people were up there because we had nowhere else to go – it was very cramped up there (and) there were few outlets.”

Synovec said the cost of architects, engineering and construction for the entire lounge amounted to about $360,000 with an additional $80-90,000 spent on audio-video equipment and furnishings, all of which came from the bond that was used to originally build the MSC.

“A lot of it is because of power,” he said. “Electrical was probably the most expensive part of the project. We had to change (the heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system because we knocked out walls, which it changes the flow of air and lighting and fire sprinklers, we had to move fire sprinklers around.”

The increased space for study and gaming comes at the expense of two meeting rooms. Synovec said student organizations will feel the impact of missing rooms, as most meeting rooms for the fall semester are already booked to Dec. 30.