Expansion underway at LBJ Student Center: Renovations aim to meet the needs of growing population
Expansion underway at LBJ Student Center
by Jayme Blaschke
Renovations aim to meet the needs of growing population
In the ancient world, all roads led to Rome. At Texas State University, much the same could be said of the LBJ Student Center.
The center of student life at Texas State, the LBJSC has along reigned as one of the busiest destinations on campus. Every day, thousands of Bobcats pass through its doors. Drawn by the pool tables in George's on the first floor, the student organizations on the fourth, or the bookstore and food courts in between, the student center has something for everyone.
When the student center first opened in 1998, the university’s enrollment topped out at 21,000 students. In the 20 years since then, the student population has nearly doubled in size, outstripping the LBJSC’s ability to fulfill its commitment to all students.
The expansion, which began this past May, is expected to be completed in May 2020. Plastic sheeting covers gaping holes in the exterior façade, and caution tape and warning signs block once-busy walkways. The staccato thwack of hammers echo across the Student Center Mall, abruptly drowned out by the insistent clatter of pneumatic tools — inescapable evidence that the $31 million project is in full swing.
“Probably the most significant shortage is for meeting and event space for student organizations and departments. We have one ballroom, and it’s busy all the time,” says John Rahmann, director of the LBJSC. “Consider the fact that we have over 450 student organizations. That number has gone up considerably since the student center opened. We’re addressing that need first and foremost with new meeting space.”
The expansion will remake the student center, adding more than 22,000 square feet to the building. Once reconfigurations and additional upgraded finishes are taken into account, more than 50,000 square feet of usable space will be available. This comes on the heels of a $20 million renovation to the LBJSC launched in 2016, which saw the replacement and upgrading of the fire alarms and sprinklers, some electrical systems, and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, paving the way for the current expansion.
“The overarching goal during construction is to keep all services up and running and maintain accessibility,” says Rahmann, who oversaw a similar $30 million expansion of Boise State’s student union building in 2009. “That’s very important. Everything here is going to remain open throughout the entire process. The south entrance to the building is going to be inaccessible during most of the construction, so people will have to come around to the north end to get in.
“There is some juggling involved, but it’s not as complicated as you might think,” he says. “Our construction management firm’s job is to maintain accessibility and a high level of safety around construction areas so that everyone can get into the building and remain safe. That is our priority.”
Once the dust settles, the Texas State community is in for a treat: The expansion will include a new main entry lobby and an additional ballroom, plus conference rooms, meeting spaces, shared spaces for informal student gatherings, and new study spaces. A new Multicultural Center will open in a high-traffic area on the second floor to address the needs of the university’s increasingly diverse student population.
One of the most prominent additions will be a new home for the Texas State Alumni Association. Currently housed in the J.C. Kellam Administration Building across campus, the new space — which will partially share resources with an upgraded Welcome Center — offers the Alumni Association greater visibility than it’s ever enjoyed before. As an added bonus, the newly renamed Alumni and Future Student Welcome Center will be one of the first of the expansion projects completed, with a projected opening in early 2019.
“Visibility is the thing we’re most excited about. There are thousands of individuals who walk through that building every day,” says Kim Gannon, director of the Alumni Association. “For us to be one of the first things that they see, it really presents the Texas State of today in a way that showcases the wonderful things that are happening here.
“This is how we recruit students,so that first impression, that wonderful first impression, is very important,” Gannon says. “It’s a place we hope our almost-190,000 alumni would use as their front door to their alma mater when they come back to visit. Walking into a space with that kind of presence, that kind of wow factor — that’s really what we’re looking for. We want to be seen as, and operate as, an organization that supports a national research university.”
Nothing like the Alumni and Future Student Welcome Center has ever graced the university before. With approximately 5,300 square feet of space available, it will be a major upgrade from the office space that the Alumni Association has called home over the past decade. The space will also feature a state-of-the-art multipurpose room. During the day, it will showcase multimedia presentations telling the story of Texas State to newcomers and tour groups. In the evenings, it will be available for dinners, receptions, and other events.
So much change is coming, it’s easy to lose track of all the moving parts. Yet despite the scent of sawdust lingering in the air, the LBJSC remains open. Ever-popular resources such as the Career Center and Dean of Students Office continue to respond to student needs without interruption.
Even Starbucks’ lattes and Frappuccinos, the lifeblood of so many students, faculty,and staff, continue to flow as quickly as the baristas can make them “Everything is going to be open and running,” Rahmann says. “There might be a little noise and a little inconvenience, but we’re still here.”