An 800-seat ballroom and a two-story sports bar are just two of the additions future students at Northwestern University can hope to see under a new student center concept design that was presented to the university's Associated Student Government last week.
The initiative to overhaul Northwestern's Norris University Center kicked off last year, according to Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, assistant vice president for student auxiliary services. It isn't the school's first effort to give the 40-year-old student center a drastic makeover: The student government released a report addressing the possibility of a new Norris Center initiative a few years ago, but so far, this initiative is the one that has made the most progress.
The current concept design lays out tentative plans to add new performance spaces, an 800-seat ballroom, 19 meeting rooms, increased lounge space, an expanded coffeeshop area and a two-story sports bar--as well as some new entrances, a bridge joining the student center to the university library, a boardwalk, terraces and a rooftop lounging area.
All of the proposed renovations are a result of student input and as well as suggestions from faculty and alumni, said Payne-Kirchmeier, and she said that so far students have been happy to see a plan for a new student center move forward in a positive and inclusive direction.
"The students need to see themselves there," she said. "We are very intentional in making sure that we're involving our student voices. Because at the end of the day, who's going to be using these facilities? It's the constituents [the center] is designed to serve."
Currently the center design concept is projected to cost somewhere between $120 million and $150 million. And unfortunately, the Northwestern community will have to wait a little bit to see the proposed sports bar become a reality--Payne-Kirchmeier said the school is looking at a four-to-seven year timeline for completion. Until then, she along with Norris Center executive director Kelly Schaefer and the rest of the team behind the new center plans will continue to work to define what the new student center could look like.
"This could really change the Northwestern experience all the way around," Payne-Kirchmeier said. "I don't think I can convey enough how excited we are to see this move forward."
Erin Vogel is a RedEye special contributor.
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.