Northern Center rushes to completion

WILDCAT+DEN+%E2%80%94James+Thams+reveals+the+wildcat+logo+on+a+table+in+the+soon-to-be-completed+Wildcat+Den.+

WILDCAT DEN —James Thams reveals the wildcat logo on a table in the soon-to-be-completed Wildcat Den.

Akasha Khalsa

What was once called the University Center will now be dubbed as the Northern Center, as NMU rounds up its last finishing renovation touches.

Although not all of the renovations have not been entirely completed at this point, tours of the new facilities will be conducted from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19 during this ceremony. 

The event is open to students and the community.

“[It] really is a welcoming ceremony to the new facility,” Vice President for Finance and Administration Gavin Leach said.

Elizabeth Peterson will address the crowd at the ceremony, along with President Erickson. Leach will make remarks, and Neuman Smith, the architectural firm in charge of completing the renovations, will have representatives in attendance. ASNMU President Cody Mayer will also speak, along with Chair of the Board of Trustees Robert Mahaney. 

Phase two of construction is approximately 80% completed at this time, according to Director of Facilities and Campus Planning James Thams, who is in charge of the continuing work.

The rush is on to make phase two areas presentable for the ceremony, with furniture and finishing touches being added right up to the day of the event. Even after the ceremony, there will remain some offices as well as the east-end stairwell which are still under construction. These spaces should be finalized in the next couple of weeks. It is hoped that everything will be complete by Sept. 30, Leach said.

The Center for Student Enrichment, which will be relocated to its new position across from the Den, will likely be ready to be moved into by next week with a few exceptions, Thams said.

“There’s been a multitude of issues. Whenever you’re doing a renovation you’re gonna run into things,” Leach explained. “The blueprints say there’s not things there, but then there are things there.”

In the early phases of the renovation, for example, there was a shortage of steel on the market, putting the construction behind schedule.

“[We’re] dealing with a few delays now, but making the facility done right and high caliber was most important to us,” Leach said.

These renovations include not only event spaces and conference rooms but also the new Wildcat Den. This student dining space plans to open by the end of the month. The Den will appear complete at the ceremony but still requires work in the kitchens, as well as installation of appliances, Thams said. The university is still commissioning equipment and training staff. There is not an official opening date for the Den at this point, but the intention is to have it open by the end of the month. The university is still attempting to acquire a liquor license for the restaurant but has not succeeded, Leach said. 

Leach hopes that the new facility will attract students during recruitment. Such upgraded facilities are also hoped to attract faculty to the university and innovative speakers for events. Currently the ballroom is booked for weddings for three years out.

“It was needed on that facility,” Leach said about the renovations. “It was just a lot of systems that were out of date.” 

There were many challenges with room sizing and deferred maintenance in the old University Center, Leach said. The 18 months of renovations were intended to address a multitude of needs that had been building in the university.

“By taking the direction we did I think we were able to address a lot of needs in one big project, as opposed to breaking it up into a bunch of things over several years,” he said.

For example, student events had been becoming larger and larger and requiring spaces that could accomodate upward of a thousand guests. The Grand Ballroom in the Northern Center was built to these specifications. NMU hopes to more easily host educational conferences as well as general conferences for the region.

“We’re trying to create an attractive venue, really upgrade it and make it a distinctive facility,” Leach said.