UAlbany Campus Center gets a makeover after 34 years
By Janie Frank
Sept. 23, 2014
The University at Albany’s Campus Center is in the process of being reconstructed and expanded, a project that has been forthcoming for nearly six years.
The expansion will consist of 255,000 square feet of renovation and new construction.
The Campus Center was opened in 1967 but, prior to the current work being done, it had not been altered since the 1980’s, when the area where the bookstore and food court are currently located was built, according to Campus Center Management Director Scott Birge.
Among the changes being made are a grand staircase, a new auditorium, a fitness center, an aerobics room, and more eateries.
The grand staircase, which will act as the main entrance to the Campus Center, will replace the current staircase in the main lounge on the podium level of the Center.
“We’re going to blow up what two sets of architects have called, ‘the stairway to nowhere,’” Birge said. “You go down the stairs and immediately have to go left or right. It’s not spacious and it’s not beautiful. There’s a pillar in the middle of either side. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”
As a replacement, a bridge will be built across the area where the lounge is now, and the grand staircase will be at the other end, leading into the main area of the Campus Center – what is now the food court.
On the main floor will be the entrance to a brand new, three story auditorium, that students will be able to make use of.
“It’s going to be used for everything,” Birge said. “It will be used for movies, lectures, and cultural presentations.”
The auditorium will have a stage with some basic lighting and sound system. There will also be curtains that can be raised and lowered.
“It won’t be a theater, but it will be a multipurpose unit,” Birge explained. “It can be used for cultural shows and presentations and fashion shows – everything that we really need to do that we can’t really do in the ballroom really great but we can’t squeeze into the Performing Arts Center and have to do in the ballroom anyway.”
The auditorium isn’t the only major addition. A fitness center will be added as well, similar to the current fitness centers on campus. However, this one will be two floors, taking up space on both the main level and the podium level on the Campus Center.
Next to the fitness center will be an aerobics room which could double as a dance studio.
“I’m not sure what we will put in there,” Birge said. “When we get there, we’ll see what fits.”
Birge also explained that Campus Recreation will be in charge of deciding what the room is used for.
The majority of the Center’s ground level will be revamped, including the food court. Some of the walls will be tore down, hopefully making the area seem more open. But aesthetic changes aren’t the only developments in the food court.
The refurbished Campus Center will feature many new areas for eateries as well, although what they will consist has not yet been determined. While areas on the blueprints are labelled “crepe,” “breakfast,” “grill,” “Indian,” “pasta,” and even “Wendy’s,” Birge explained that none of this is certain, especially because the blueprints were created nearly six years ago when the plan for reconstruction first began.
One thing that does seem fairly certain, though not yet definite, is that the food court is expecting to have a Guy Fieri on Campus in this area.
During indoor construction, Wholly Habaneros, Mein Bowl, and Dreidel’s Kosher Cafe will be closed for about a year.
The 518 Market will remain open during construction.
“One of the reasons we moved it the way it is now is because we’ll be able to get into there,” Birge said.
Some other additions include a new Student Association area, complete with conference centers and offices, an open area for many student groups (with some exceptions) to work next to each other instead of in individual offices, a game room, and a wood fire with a glass wall that students will be able to sit around.
“This year’s kind of fun because it’s happening outdoors. Next year, it will still be fun but it will be a lot more dislocation. Then we’ll be all done in two years,” Birge said.
The Campus Center expansion and reconstruction is expected to be completed early in the spring of 2017.