Student center renovations reach final stage this term

by Chris Leech | 1/16/14 10:00pm

Kelsey Kittelsen, The Dartmouth Staff
Source: Kelsey Kittelsen

More ice cream. A pool hall with a tricky name. Largely unchanged wait times. One year and millions of dollars later, the newly renovated Collis Center for Student Involvement is seeing its finishing touches. The three-part process, which started with the center’s temporary closure last winter, has transformed its dining, studying and lounging spaces.

This marks the first renovation to Collis since the early 1990s, Collis Center director Eric Ramsey said. Phases one and two of the renovations cost around $6.3 million, Ramsey said, while the figures for the final phase are not yet available. An anonymous donation supported phase one, but the College funded phases two and three.

During the first phase, completed last March, Collis Cafe received a “facelift,” adding features like an ice cream station, Ramsey said. Renovations added a new basement pool hall, better conditioning and heating and a makeover of the first-floor television lounge.

The second phase included new paint and furniture on Collis’s second and third floors. Some faculty offices were also moved out of the Center’s upper floors, replaced by study spaces and meeting areas for student groups.

The third phase of the renovation process consists of the implementation of new building safety systems, including updated fire alarms, Ramsey said.

Ramsey said he believes the most important improvements are the new air conditioning and heating systems.

“Collis is always busy,” he said. “People have remarked that now, Collis is even busier, and it’s nice to know that spirit will carry on into the summer.”

Members of the Campus Center Advisory Committee, a student group convened to consult on the renovations to Collis and the Class of 1953 Commons, helped shape renovation decisions, Ramsey said.

Students interviewed were most enthusiastic about the changes to the cafe area. Since the renovations, Danny Katz ’16 has started going to the cafe to unwind and study, not just for meals. Though he previously ate at Collis Cafe only a few times a term, Katz said he now frequents the center multiple times a week.

“It’s definitely a place where I can sit and relax,” he said. “I don’t think of it just as a dining hall.”

The lighting and atmosphere create a brighter aesthetic, Katz said. He said the new ice cream bar and soda machine offer an improved selection.

Katz and others, however, said they were still put off by the lines at popular food stations, such as stir-fry and pasta. Ranee Deechilly ’14 said the waiting times for food in the newly renovated Collis Cafe have not improved much.

“Lines seem longer now because there is more space for people to form a line,” she said. “Back then, you just had to find a place to stand.”

On Thursday at noon, right after the end of the 10A class period, the line for stir-fry wrapped around the side wall and nearly reached the main hallway. Reaching the front of the line took eight minutes, and the preparation time added an additional 12. For pasta that night, waiting in line took six minutes and the food was ready in another eight.

Staff members said the improvements make the cafe a more comfortable workplace. Collis employee Steven Moretti said he appreciated the additional space behind the line and the increase in airflow in the cooking area.

Matt Krantz ’16 said the renovations were largely positive.

“I don’t think the functionality really changed, but I don’t think it needed to,” he said.

The renovations also include 8-Ball Hall, a basement space with three pool tables, a foosball table and two pinball machines. Tables for studying and dining, two flat-screen televisions and a wall-sized chalkboard line the room. 8-Ball Hall replaced Fuel, a student-focused space rendered largely unnecessary after the opening of Sarner Underground in ’53 Commons, Ramsey said.

Will Hickman ’16 said he appreciates the expanded pool offerings and noted that, even if he is not a great pool player, he frequently enjoys a game or two downstairs. He finds that the name, however, is troubling.

“8-Ball Hall? No one’s going to say that,” Hickman said.