By Travis Wood
Renovations focused on sparking new interest in the Milo Bail Student Center and bring it into a more modern era have begun.
Bill Pickett, senior director of student involvement and one of the project leads, says the building looks out-of-date.
“This facility is dated. It feels like 1990,” Pickett said. “There are bits and pieces of it that worked really well in the ‘90s for the amount of students that we had.”
However the number of students has grown exponentially since then, and the landscape of the campus has also changed, prompting change both visually and technologically.
Pickett says the goal is to create an area that feels like an airport lounge with multiple electronic opportunities. Contemporary décor willalso be added but with greater emphasis on making the building feel like something that is distinctly University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“We want to brand this building to make it feel like you’re on campus,” Pickett said. “When you go to UNL, or you go to Georgia, or you go to KU…you go into their student center, multiple logos are up, their colors are up. You feel like you’re on campus.”
This face-lift will also improve the space for the 2,000 students currently living on campus, Pickett said. The number of on-campus students has slowly risen over the past 10 years, and the new features aim to give them an area that is more residential, instead of an area that feels like a doctor’s office.
Pickett added that the same features are also meant to entice commuter students as well. There will be new food options, such as the tentatively titled Maverick Grill, which Pickett described as an Applebee’s without the alcohol, and pool tables and air hockey are being discussed. These additions, along with the visual improvements, are meant to draw students in and give them a reason to stay.
“By updating the physical appearance of the student center, students who usually don’t spend time on campus, outside of class, will make the effort to spend more time in the student center and will want to be a part of the happenings at UNO,” said Brendan Brown, a member of Student Government at UNO.
Pickett says in the meantime construction will continue throughout the year until August 2016, but parts of the building will remain open. The primary entrance is the wooden scaffolding leading into the food court. Color-coded signs, navigation helpers and online tutorial videos will be available to help get students and faculty get around.
Emily Bradley, sustainability chair for Student Government, described the building as the “hub” of campus, and the remodeling process might confuse some.
“Students may be frustrated that the renovations were not completed over the summer. I think this confusion may cause some disarray on campus for a few weeks,” Bradley said, “However in the end, I believe the new Student Center will cause less confusion in the long run and will be a more welcoming, inviting location for students.”
Pickett says the final vision includes improved, less confusing layouts, more natural light and space optimization. Computer labs will be removed, seen as stagnant space in the building. Instead laptop checkouts will be available, allowing students to use a computer wherever they wish.
Additionally all student involvement spaces such as Student Government, Maverick Productions and MavPro will be under one office to streamline layout and navigation.
“Campus life benefits a lot whenever you can make it easier for students to run across activities or organizations and get involved in them,” said Patrick Davlin, speaker of the senate for Student Government.
New disability spaces will also be added, and the Office of Military and Veteran Services will also move over from the Eppley Administration Building, Pickett said. Multicultural Affairs will also add a women’s resource center and LGBT center to further service the student body. The non-denominational chapel on the second floor will add a foot washing station for Muslim students.
In budgeting and planning the renovation, Pickett said he was mindful of students. He didn’t have to tap into student fees because the school had saved money for the past 15 to 20 years to do the project.
“It makes their experience better, and that’s ultimately my goal to make sure that they have the resources at their fingertips to be successful, and a new, updated student center is going to help with that,” Pickett said.