Breaking the surface

Despite the inconvenience of the central War Memorial Student Union construction, the end result will be well worth the wait.
The Lincoln Builders of Baton Rouge construction company was given notice to initiate construction of the new union on May 15, 2012. The improved Student Union will provide more space, better quality and quantity food options and a more central location for several student departments. The construction began after students voted to pay for a new union through the referendum initiated by the Student Government Association (SGA).  
“It’s going to be a great amenity to the campus and the students of Southeastern,” said Ryan Faulk, lead architect on the project from Holly and Smith Architecture. “It will create that front door for the students to the university.”
The first phase of construction is expected to be complete in November 2013. By spring 2014, the improved eating area, which will be located on the first floor of the new union, is expected to be ready for use.
During the second phase of construction, the Lion’s Den will be renovated, and the third phase of construction consists of renovating the areas below the Student Union Theatre. The bookstore will be moved to the new union and in its place will be the counseling center, health center and Student Excellence.  
“With tuition and fees increasing along with a weak economy, it is beneficial for Southeastern to stand out amongst other colleges in the state,” said Branden Summers, SGA president. “Our current union has reached its capacity and with a new three-story union, student services and daily operations will improve drastically.”
The new union will be a three-story building with a large glass façade facing the north, overlooking the space between Fayard Hall and Sims Memorial Library, providing an abundance of natural light throughout the eating areas.
“It’s a modern structure and will compliment the architecture of the current student union,” said Faulk. “It’s going to fulfill a lot of needs for the students with student services, food services and a brand new ballroom.”
The first floor will house several of the restaurants that now occupy the Lion’s Den as well as the game room. The new student dining area will be located on the second floor, while the new ballroom will be built on the third floor.
According to Jim McHodgkins, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, the new ballroom is expected to be spacious enough to hold 1,000 people, allowing for bigger student events.
“It will be great for the students because right now there is a premium on meeting space, and this will allow more student groups to use rooms,” said McHodgkins. “I’m working with our staff to make sure the needs of the department and the students are met.”
Despite the damages caused by Hurricane Isaac, the construction of the union was mildly undermined.
“We got delayed a week and a half because of the storm. No damage, just a lot of water.” said Nick Stodd, on-site project manager from Lincoln Builders. “I think it’s a good project and we’re excited to be doing it. It’s a good opportunity for our company as well as the university.”  
Lincoln Builders is a full-service general contracting, construction management, and design/ build firm.
Several of the university departments have either been forced to move their offices elsewhere, or have been otherwise affected during the construction. Auxiliary Services was amongst the departments forced to relocate.  
“The relocation has not had an impact on our daily operations,” said Robin Parker, director of marketing and strategic initiatives. “We are excited about the Student Union expansion! In addition to new and improved office and meeting spaces within the Union itself, several of the Auxiliary Service units will offer new products and services upon completion of the construction and renovation.”
Along with the overall improvements to the union, students will be provided with more dining options.  
“I don’t know what new restaurants we’ll be getting, but there has been talk about having maybe one sit down type restaurant,” said McHodgkins.
Upon completion the new union will retain the title, the War Memorial Student Union.
“New students pick a university that they can consider home and work well in the conditions,” said Summers. “The new union will be a central hub for students, bringing everything and everyone together.”