by Amby Sarabia
photography by Jason Cortez
Walking through campus, students are surrounded by large oak trees, open areas filled with green grass and freshly planted flowers. Visitors can feel the quiet and homey vibe of the campus; then they see them, two large white cone-shaped structures protruding from the center of campus. “What are those things?” people ask. Since 1974, the Super Tents have caught the attention of all those visiting and driving by the University of La Verne.
“The tents are not my idea of a student center,” explains Michael Abraham, a Board of Trustee member “It is not a friendly place, not a great structure; students deserve better.”
Others agreed as the Board of Trustees committee came together in January 2003 and decided the campus lacked a student center, which contained all the elements needed to bring the faculty and students closer together. “We did not have a living room of the campus,” explains President Steve Morgan. “The new center will be a place where students, faculty and staff can go.”
Known for its high level of academics and small classes, the University looks to set itself apart from other surrounding campuses, such as the University of Redlands, Cal Lutheran, Azusa Pacific and the Claremont Colleges, whose curriculums are similar to ULV’s. The main question thrown on the table was how can a University standout from other competing colleges if they are so similar? After much discussion, the answer was easy—a new state of the art campus center.
Running with the idea, the committee started to come up with potential designs for the center and all the elements it could house. Originally estimated to be 63,000 sq. ft., the planners aimed to move the bookstore into the center as well as a performance theater, ticket booth, internet lounge, copy center and enrollment services. Going along with thinking big, a credit union, fitness center, travel agency and art gallery were all intended to go into the center. Unfortunately reality set in once the committee learned that space was limited, thus limiting the overall size and space of the center. Many of their ideas had to be thrown out. Consequently the University is limited to the size of its expansion as it was built directly in the heart of Old Town La Verne where it is surrounded not only by shops and restaurants on one side, but residential communities and railroads are on the other side.
University officials are determined to fit in the new structure especially since the new center is an essential part of future changes that the campus is scheduled to undergo in the next few years. Aiming to grab the attention of more students, the committee is planning for an increase in student enrollment. Plans call for a new residence hall to be built where the tennis courts currently reside. Running with the old saying of out with the old in with the new, Stu-Han will be turned into a parking lot. “While the new center is part of a strategic plan for the campus, the committee just wants to make things better for the students,“ says Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs.
The new student center plans are first class. Since the University is looking to set itself apart from competing colleges, in many aspects the new campus center may turn out to be the deciding factor for many indecisive potential students. Current students will also reap the benefits of the new center, especially commuters who find themselves searching for a home away from home.
Students currently attending the University can benefit as all the services they need can be found in one building, and commuters, rather than going home or isolating themselves in the library, can find a place to relax. The new center will serve as a focal point of the campus where students can come together rather then being split up around campus. Unification is what the faculty is out to achieve.
Charles Bentley, director of public relations and a ULV alumnus, knows what it is like to be a commuter attending the University. “We never had a place to go; we always had to find places, and it really depended on your major,’ he explains. “The new center will say, ‘This is your place’; it will be less restricted and allow you to feel like you’re at home.”
It took awhile for the new center to spark the interest of all those on campus as the idea was tossed around constantly at meetings. Sooner than later the new center started to catch the attention of many, and before the Board knew it, the project started to take off. After getting the project approved, those involved are currently hard at work to ensure it is carried out. Phil Hawkey, executive vice president, and assistant professor of public administration, is responsible for the structures construction plans.
Meeting with architects and working through the ever-changing price of construction materials, Hawkey must research what type of campus center and of what quality can be achieved for $12 million. “We will not have the final plan for another year,” says Hawkey. “It’s still in its early stages.”
So far, the buildings tentative design calls for a of 43,000 square feet three-story building. Unfortunately when new things are built, old things are thrown out. The locker rooms, training room and football coaches’ offices will be demolished to make way for the new center. These facilities will then be relocated into the tents; or rather the newly renovated Sports Science and Athletics Pavilion, as the Super Tents will be called after renovation construction in completed fall 2005.
Once the construction crew breaks ground, Hawkey must decide where the faculty and resources in those buildings being demolished or renovated will go. Those who had offices in the athletic training room and coaches offices will relocate to the new athletics pavilion. Once that problem was solved, Hawkey now has to determine where students and faculty can park since the structure will take over half the parking lot located near the football lockers/athletic training building. As if these decisions are not stressful enough, there is also the question of from where the rest of the funding for the center will come.
Donors play a huge role in the creation of the new center since the Board has estimated that the project will cost $16 million. The project consists of three factors, the campus center, student center plaza and the renovation of the tents. $12 million will go toward the center, and the remaining $4 million will be invested into the Super Tents and plaza.
The need for a common place to meet and just relax is pushing all involved in the project to get all plans finalized. Backing the project since the very beginning, Dr. Jean Bjerke vice president of University Relations, serves as the chief fundraiser. Looking for donors and getting people to commit donations is a large part of her duties.
Michael Abraham, board of trustee member, and his wife Sara have donated $4 million. Ben Harris and his wife Barbara ,another board member have donated $1 million. Feeling the urgency for something new, Abraham has challenged the University. He will hand over $4 million if the University raises the remaining amount of money needed to fund the project. “We need better facilities so that we can be on am equal footing with other surrounding universities,” explains Abraham. “We need to be able to compete with other universities.”
The challenge has given all those involved a forced incentive to get on top of things. “We need to raise the money by 2005,” Bjerke explains. “I am absolutely confident that we will meet the challenge because none of us will let it fail,” expresses Bjerke. “It is the right project at the right time in La Verne’s history; it’s very exciting.”
The new student center will serve as the central meeting place for all those on campus, as it will house a café with outdoor seating, classrooms, a computer lab, student government offices, club offices, meeting rooms, a recreational center, student affairs and organizations, a seminar room and student services.
Renovating the Super Tents will be a job all in itself as the sports seating capacity will be increased and aesthetical improvements such as improved acoustics and interior remodeling will be engineered. This will create a facility that will better serve all on campus, while creating a modern and more inviting setting.
There will be a new place for students and faculty to meet as the walkways linking the Supertents, and Daily Theater together will be transformed into a plaza type setting where all on campus can congregate and discuss their daily activities.
Regardless of the intention, the planners aim for a large number of students and faculty to visit the center on a daily basis. “I estimate that 1,000 people will be going in and out of the building at least once a day,” explains Bjerke. “It will be the heart of the campus.”