Nov. 9, 2006
By Meryl Smith
Most people have seen the beautiful new building sitting at the end of Court Street, but very few know the brilliance that lies within. Given the opportunity to take a pre-opening tour, I jumped at the chance and was truly blown away by the experience. Walking into the new university center, I didn't have any expectations. And I hadn't put much thought into the way it would impact my experience here at Ohio University.
I can tell you that this new facility will serve everyone in the university community. Construction of the new Baker University Center began in March 2004, and the facility is now quickly approaching its winter-quarter opening. Trust me -- it was worth the wait.
It is evident that the new university center was built with students in mind as it is home to many services that will benefit us. For those of you who are skeptical of the move, please fear not. The opening of the new Baker University Center represents a welcome and refreshing change.
Don't be fooled by the exterior's traditional red brick and white columns. The interior's decor has a consistent contemporary, yet community-oriented feel. The building was designed with expansive windows and skylights so natural light illuminates the space and creates a revitalizing, lively atmosphere.
There are many things students will find appealing and useful. Some of my favorite aspects of this building: the sprawling food court, the cozy new Front Room, the 200-seat theater, the third-floor student organization space and the escalators that will ease our walk from lower to upper campus.
Places to eat
The entrance on the first floor opens right into the casually hip food court. Whether early or late, the food court prepares meals from scratch to eat-in or take-out. You won't get tired of the same old grub at this food court, considering the plethora of choices. It serves everything from TexMex-style monster burritos, brick oven pizza and sushi to organic coffee, made-to-order deli sandwiches and salads. Plus, there's a quick-serve grab-n-go for those sprinting to their next class.
There are late night options as well. The Fast Lane serves ready-to-go-meals, fresh baked goods, coffee, smoothies and ice cream till 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. The food court will accept cash, Dining Dollars, Bobcat Cash and Visa/MasterCard. For more information, you can check out "New Baker serves up variety."
Before I took a tour of the building, I was anxious to learn the fate of one of my favorite places in the current Baker Center. I am happy to tell you that my beloved Front Room Coffeehouse lives on.
The Front Room will have the welcoming, comfortable mood of the old one with an improved, invigorated feeling. It will serve an array of gourmet coffees and daily selections of chef-prepared hot sandwiches, soups and baked goods. Now there's room for more people to enjoy the Front Room – its capacity has increased from 75 people to 125! A cozy fireplace and stage is at the center of the room, and a mix of soft, functional furniture will be dispersed throughout the space. Outdoor tables at both ends of the Front Room overlook south campus and Court Street.
Programming by Student Affairs, great food and coffee, stimulating conversation, a cozy atmosphere and beautiful views put a new twist on an old favorite.
Spaces to meet
Being active in student organizations, I am very happy with the amount of space and meeting rooms the building offers. All of the conference rooms will be fully equipped with the latest technology, which will improve the quality of our meetings and better prepare us for our futures in the professional working world.
While the second floor houses most of those conference rooms, it's not all work and no play. In the midst of the meeting rooms, a 200-seat theater with stadium seating and a multifunction stage can accommodate comedy acts, movies or live performances.
The third floor will be very conducive to student organization and administrative use. The layout of the third floor will bring student organizations together to facilitate collaboration and create better communications. This centrally located community of student groups and supporting administrative offices will greatly benefit all those who were once spread all over campus. Beyond the already established offices for Residence Life, Judiciaries, International Student and Faculty Services, Baker administration, Dean of Students, Campus Life, and the Student and Graduate Student Senates and others, there will be 26 work stations in 13 offices available for student organizations.
Communication between the various student organizations and the student body likely will improve thanks to a new media wing. The third-floor wing will house The Post, Athena, ACRN and Athens VideoWorks.
The easy street
I don't know about you, but I've made the hike from Grover to Alden many, many times. I always find myself saying, "Wouldn't it be great if there were an escalator in this hill?" Great news fellow hill-climbers, escalators span from the first to the fourth floors of the new center. Though I didn't get the chance to use them yet, I'm assured the escalators will make the pedestrian commute quicker and less excruciating. Now I can use all the time I save during those walks to classes to study. Or maybe I'll just grab another cup of coffee at the Front Room!
Meryl Smith is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing. Photos by Rick Fatica.