USD's Muenster Center officially opens, ushers in new era By Randy Dockendorf
Yankton Media, Inc. Teddi Joyce picked up a nasty 7-10 split, and she wasnâ�?�?t even using a bowling ball. Or a bowling alley, for that matter. Joyce, a University of South Dakota administrator, was playing a heated Wii video game with USD sophomore Michael Hoffmann on a large screen in the new Muenster University Center. XBox and Playstation 360 games are located elsewhere in the building. The 70,000-square-foot facility, which cost $19.4 million, officially opened Tuesday. The â�?�?MUC,â�? as itâ�?�?s already nicknamed, marks the end of nearly three years without a campus center for the approximately 9,200 students. No classes were held Monday because of the Presidentâ�?�?s Day holiday. However, students could enjoy early use of the facility. â�?�?It was a â�?�?softâ�?�? opening, kind of a trial run before the official opening,â�? Joyce said. Hoffmann expects the center to become even busier as more students learn about it. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s definitely one of the coolest places on the campus grounds,â�? the Rapid City native said. But the MUC means more than just fun and games, said Student Government Association (SGA) president Ryan Budmayr. He pointed to the dining and study areas, wireless capabilities, link to the library and other aspects that give new meaning to student life. But most of all, the MUC provides a gathering place that most USD students have not known during their entire stay on the Vermillion campus, Budmayr said. â�?�?This is Student Center No. 1 for me,â�? the Belle Fourche junior said. â�?�?I toured the CSC (Coyote Student Center) when I was here for â�?�?Fast Trackâ�?�? (orientation) as a high school senior, then they tore it down. Itâ�?�?s been 2 1/2 to 3 years since we have had a student center.â�? USD students spent much of the first day just taking in all the features, Budmayr said. â�?�?The students arenâ�?�?t used to these amenities. There is definitely the â�?�?Wow!â�?�? factor with more to take in,â�? he said. â�?�?I am anxious to see how the students use it during the next two years.â�? After the CSC demolition to make way for the new facility, activities were moved around campus, including the Temporary Student Center (TSC). The MUC construction fell behind schedule, and an emphasis was placed on opening the facility for the spring semester, said Kirsten Compary, the acting dean of students. â�?�?We needed the building for the students and the university community,â�? she said. â�?�?It was well worth the wait.â�? The Barnes and Noble campus bookstore, housed in the TSC since May 2006, opened last month ahead of other MUC occupants, said bookstore manager Angela Miller. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s been lonesome. We are so happy to have the rest of the crew join us, to see more student activity,â�? she said. â�?�?Overall, there has been a lot of student curiosity (about the new center).â�? The bookstore move into the MUC came during the holidays, Miller said. â�?�?It took several days (to move), but we were happy to pull it off for the students. We wanted them to have a taste of what was to come with the building,â�? she said. The MUC, designed by Charles Rose Architects, Inc. of Somerville, Mass., offers features from a multi-level campus dining area â�?�? with indoor and outdoor seating â�?�? to a 500-person capacity multipurpose room. The center offers state-of-the-art conference rooms, meeting areas, a multi-cultural center and offices for the Student Government Association and Student Activities Center. The building, named in honor of former USD Foundation President Theodore (Ted) Muenster and his wife, Karen, can accommodate several social events with an outdoor entertainment area, a second-floor terrace for informal gatherings and multiple commons and lounge areas. Additionally, more than a dozen high-definition TVs located throughout the building, including six 63-inch televisions, will provide visitors with several entertainment options. Visitors can purchase snacks at the centerâ�?�?s convenience store or choose from an entire menu of coffee beverages at U. Brew. With the MUC, students have the flexibility with their meal plans of all they care to eat in the commons or ala carte at the new facility, Compary added. Charles Rose Architects is also designing the new USD business school under construction, Compary said. â�?�?This is the second student center they have designed. They bring a fresh perspective on the use of space,â�? she said. â�?�?The rooms arenâ�?�?t just one function. Itâ�?�?s different uses for different spaces.â�? Budmayr commended the MUCâ�?�?s architecture. â�?�?There is not a 90-degree angle in the building, and we have natural lighting. Itâ�?�?s unlike anything in Vermillion or in the state,â�? he said. The MUC comes at an excellent time in USD history, Budmayr said. He pointed to USDâ�?�?s transition to NCAA Division I and the recent site visit by Summit League officials. The MUC will also accommodate student demand for more amenities and USDâ�?�?s goal of enrolling about 12,000 students, he said. â�?�?With the Summit League visit and the opening of this center, you couldnâ�?�?t plan two events any better,â�? he said. The MUC will also provide more visibility to student government, Budmayr said. â�?�?We have been operating out of the TSC,â�? he said. â�?�?We have an â�?�?open doorâ�?�? policy, but there are students that didnâ�?�?t know where we were located. This will bring increased accessibility.â�? The MUC will also promote greater campus unity by drawing diverse groups together for activities, Budmayr predicted. The MUC will also promote greater student-faculty interaction, he said. Itâ�?�?s an idea supported by political science professor Tim Schorn. He arrived at the center by 8 a.m. Tuesday to enjoy his cappuccino and the sight of students using the new facilities. â�?�?With the previous Coyote Student Center, you could sit and do grading and reading. The students knew where to find you outside the office,â�? he said. â�?�?You could chat about classes, life and the world. Now you have the opportunity again, and itâ�?�?s a lively place.â�? The MUC will serve as the heartbeat of the campus, Schorn said. â�?�?It provides a place for the campus to come together and visit in a less formal setting. It encourages conversation that could not take place elsewhere,â�? he said. The MUC will also serve the general public, Compary said. The campus can host conferences and meetings as well as homecoming and alumni gatherings. The ballroom provides room for 500 seats for banquets and 750 seats for theater performances, which will prove crucial during the Slagle Auditorium renovation, she said. The MUC can also provide a gathering place during moments ranging from breaking news to the Super Bowl, she said. As if to emphasize her point, the overhead large-screen televisions showed two major events: President Barack Obamaâ�?�?s comments on the federal stimulus bill and New York Yankee Alex Rodriguezâ�?�?s first press conference since admitting his steroid use earlier this decade while playing for the Texas Rangers. â�?�?This will offer so much more than a meeting place. It will be the heart of the campus, a place for people to come together and celebrate,â�? Compary said. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s like the living room for the campus, a place for people to gather and talk, to see people you would not otherwise see.â�? Budmayr agreed, noting the new center will help recruit and retain students. â�?�?You can see the physical changes and the excitement of the students,â�? he said. â�?�?The campus is alive. Itâ�?�?s a great day to be a Coyote.â�?