Originally created 07/31/06

Addition caters to students



It has its own food court, but it's not a mall. It has fitness and massage rooms on the second floor, but it's not a high-priced gym. And, with its open-glass breezeway, banquet room and free Wi-Fi access, it could easily be mistaken for one of Augusta's swankiest hotels.

When Augusta State University opens the doors on the new Jaguar Student Activities Center on Aug. 7, students might never want to leave.

To Student Activities Director Eddie Howard, that's just fine.

"The student center should be the living room of campus," Mr. Howard said as he strolled past row after row of plush lounge chairs in the breezeway.

Faculty and administration members have known for years that ASU is filled with students who would rather drive home between classes than laze about the campus, Mr. Howard said.

The trend has been difficult to buck at a school where great parking places are coveted like a passing grade in biochemistry, and student life struggles.

"Our goal is to change that," Mr. Howard said. "This is where people should be."

Organizers pulled out all the stops in designing and furnishing the $15 million building.

Students will be able to sip Starbucks coffee in the cafeteria, watch a movie or play Xbox on one of the building's many plasma-screen TVs, then work off their lunch on a treadmill in the fitness room.

Mr. Howard said the size of the new building has allowed him to consider activities that weren't possible before.

He has toyed with the idea of holding free aerobics classes for students, or a regular comedy or music series on the new, fully equipped stage.

"Every time we do something, our goal is to have you feel like you're hanging out at somewhere like a downtown coffee house - not like you're on campus," he said. "This will give us the opportunity to do those things."

Student clubs and organizations soon will be moving from their old digs in the school's makeshift student center, Washington Hall.

Down the hall from the offices is what Kathy Hamrick, the special coordinator for academic and master planning, called an "escape" room. With $2,500 massage chairs and speakers pumping in gentle sounds of the sea, the relaxing space will act as a refuge for students.

"If somebody wants some quiet time or if a religious group, nondenominational, wants to go there and do some counseling or pray, this will be the sort of place to escape to," Ms. Hamrick said.

Mr. Howard said the purpose of the new center is to foster a greater sense of student life on the campus and, for the first time, to give ASU students some bragging rights over their peers in other schools.

"We never really had anything on campus like this before," he said. "This definitely puts us in the same game with some of the other schools out there."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

THE AMENITIES


The 50,000-square-foot, $15 million Jaguar Student Activities Center is situated in the heart of Augusta State University's Walton Way campus. It includes a fitness room, a plasma-screen TV room, a game room, wireless Internet access, a banquet room, a cafeteria and a relaxation room.