The Ole Miss Facilities Department is in the process of implementing changes around campus to better meet the needs of the growing student and faculty population.
The University of Mississippi is growing and with this growth has come an initiative to improve and update campus. This wave of improvements being done on campus makes Ian Banner, director of facilities planning and the university architect, one of the busiest people on campus. The project making the most buzz around campus is the upcoming renovations to the Student Union.
The Student Union was constructed in 1976 with a student population of 8,500 students at the time. “There have been no additions to the building and the student population has more than doubled,” said Banner via email.
The University of Mississippi has committed to a $50 million dollar renovation that will last four years and will expand the 97,600 square feet building with an addition of 70,9000 square feet added on the north side. This addition will be built first beginning in August. The plans include a bigger dining area, new student government offices, a ballroom, and conference space, etc. according to a UM press release.
For Liz Sahrmann, a senior Hospitality Management major, the Union has become absent from her daily routine. “The Union was a great part of my daily route while I was a freshman but after that I barely walked through the Union with my classes being in Lenoir,” said Sahrmann.
Sahrmann admits to avoiding the Union these days because it can be overwhelming. Courtney Richards, a junior Broadcast Journalism major, agrees. “It is always so packed. I only go into the Union if I have to, which is mainly to get my mail,” said Richards. The university has also announced that the Union post office will close on June 30th and that the Crosby Hall lobby will become the new mail and package center.
Upon hearing the news of the upgrades to the Union Sahrmann feels envious of younger students who will experience the renovations. ”I wish I could see the renovations that they are going to do, I’m sure it’ll be great,” said Sahrmann.
Banner also has high hopes for this renovation. “The building has the potential to regain its position as the hub of campus,” said Banner via email. Banner looks forward to breathing life back into the Union and improving the quality of space that has suffered over the years.
The Union isn’t the only space that has declined over time. The facilities department was faced with the decision of renovating the Union or the Turner Center. “The Union got the okay ahead of the recreation center,” said Banner via email. (Hear soundbyte of a student who wishes the Turner Center would have beat out the Union as top priority below).
The Union topped the to do list over the Turner Center just like the Ole Miss campus is known for topping lists all across the web as the most beautiful. Banner feels the pressure everyday and every night to make sure his plans are up to par with the nation’s most beautiful college grounds.
“The challenge is to facilitate growth while preserving (and celebrating) the atmosphere of a special place,” said Banner via email. He admits it is a very difficult task at times but there is still room for careful, planned growth and will be for years to come.
Although the Union is a main project, there are also several other key projects that are being carefully planned and in progress. One that has pressure to blend into campus is the new parking garage that will be attached to the south side of the new basketball arena. “The building will use red brick and will incorporate architectural details found in other historic buildings on campus,” said Banner via email.
The parking garage will have five levels and there will be 856 spaces. Banner believes by locating the garage close to the football stadium but far enough away from the center of campus it will be utilized fully on game days and every other day of the academic calendar. Banner also knows the new basketball arena and multi level parking structure together will be of the most visible and invasive projects due to having to move a road to make it happen, the Hill drive realignment.
The other key projects include the re-opening of Johnson Commons for food service, which is anticipated launching in mid-March, and Lamar Hall’s significant renovation, which will be completed this summer.
It is evident that the facilities department is working overtime. Banner credits this as a response to the growth of the university and because they cannot sit still. “We attempt to continue to improve the quality of our campus,” said Banner via email.