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The Shack is back

Amid state-of-the-art upgrades, Mizzou's new student center gives a nostalgic nod to old hangouts

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  • Story by Ryan Gavin
  • Images courtesy of Gray Design Group
  • Published: Dec. 30, 2008
Beatle Bailey

Beetle Bailey, the creation of Mizzou alumnus Mort Walker, plays a prominent role in the decor of Mizzou's new student center. The facility will house Mort's Place and The Shack, a new incarnation of an old hangout.

Places to hang out and relax on campus, a giant bookstore and three floors full of activities — the New Student Center will barely be recognizable when it opens Jan. 5.

“I think for the first time, it’ll be a student center for the students to use,” says Michelle Froese, public relations manager for Student and Auxiliary Services. “If you’ve never been to a student center somewhere else, maybe this [current one] is. But I think people will be surprised.”

New building, old traditions

Walking in through the main entrance, now located on Rollins Street, students are greeted by a double spiral staircase (to be covered with old Mizzou images) that leads to all three levels of the limestone-covered building. Inside are several familiar features with brand-new looks.

The new bookstore, now more spacious and open, provides natural light and room to feature a diverse selection of items on the main floor. Books themselves are easier to find — definitely a plus during book pickup. All are now located in the same part of the store in clearly labeled sections, and new storage and receiving areas make for better processing by bookstore staff.

Clothing will be displayed in ways that make it easy to locate that black-and-gold piece you’re looking for. Checkout areas are organized into neat rows, with ample room for ringing up purchases.

Student center

Gray Design Group's computer-generated rendering shows how the Center for Student Involvement on the top floor of Mizzou's new student center will look when construction has been completed. Doors open Jan. 5 for bookstore and office access. Completion of Phase 1 of construction is set for March 1.

Tiger Tech has its own room, with more modern-looking fixtures and accessories. The size of the room, as with everything else, has increased drastically. An elevator, to be blanketed with images of MU, allows access to all levels of the facility. Offices for bookstore staff are all centrally located.

The UMB banking branch will have a transitional location in the new student center as well, but once the renovations are complete, it will have a permanent one.

The Center for Student Involvement, currently located in the basement of Brady Commons, will occupy the top floor of the new building. On the walls will be historical images taken from campus archives and other outlets that show Mizzou through the ages. The new space not only gives students a larger, nicer area but also shows progress and events of the past to make a connection with current students. The offices in A020 will remain open until that area debuts March 1.

The second floor of the new building features balconies, where students and visitors can look out over campus or relax while studying in a fresh outdoor environment.

The new student center won’t be foreign to visitors, though. Plans meticulously call for touches of Mizzou to adorn floors and walls, giving the place a strong sense of Mizzou tradition.

“We want to bring as much of campus tradition in to this place as we can so you don’t have this new building that doesn’t seem to have any connection,” Froese says. “There will be areas throughout the entire place that have historic photos, where, as a student, you feel connected.”

The next phase

That March 1 date will mark the completion of Phase I, which entails the finishing touches on the new part of the building. Phase II, which involves the gutting and complete remodeling of old Brady Commons, promises several more features for students to look forward to:

  • The Shack: This programming and lounge area will recapture the nostalgia of a beloved hangout of a previous generation of Mizzou students. Joe and Bert Franke, former owners of the original Shack, which burned down in 1988, have been involved in the project to incorporate portions of actual booths as well as photos and stories recounting student life at The Shack. It will offer daily programs such as music, open-mic comedy and poetry, and televised sporting events.
  • Mort’s: Named for MU alumnus Mort Walker (BA ’48), creator of the Beetle Bailey comic, this games-and-grill area will offer sandwiches and appetizers during and after late-night events at The Shack. Demand for late-night dining options on campus spurred its creation.
  • Beetle Bailey as a Mizzou student: While at school, Mort Walker served as editor of and contributor to a student humor magazine called the ShowMe, whose staff meetings often were held in the spacious booths of the original Shack. Upon graduating, Walker went to New York City to pursue a career as a cartoonist. Although Beetle wasn’t born on campus, Walker said he did have The Shack in mind while developing the character who became Beetle Bailey. Walker offered to create original artwork for the center that features Beetle as a Mizzou student.
  • Traditions Lounge: Tradition is a hallmark of Mizzou, so this lounge will incorporate design elements recommended by alumni that feature the school’s most treasured ongoing traditions. In addition to the historical photos and images around the Social Justice Center, students can see images of how Truman the Tiger has evolved through the ages and how the campus has grown.
  • Meeting rooms: The new renovated area where Brady Commons currently stands will host nine meeting rooms that can be reserved by student organizations on campus.
  • Media Center: Student media outlets such as MUTV, KCOU and The Maneater will all have homes in a centralized location on the ground floor of the new building.

“The new construction is always easier than renovation, and that’s going to be a challenge with the gut rehab of Brady,” says Froese. “People think there’s an old ugly building attached to the new nice one, and that [part of the building] won’t even look the same when completed. When you think about it, it’s almost doubling the size of the current Brady.”

All of these changes came about in response to ongoing student needs. Focus groups were used to determine what facilities and programming would be needed. Students took trips to many different universities to get new ideas. Every aspect of the new student center is based on past and current student input.

Funding for the new student center is coming from multiple sources. Fifty percent comes from contributions from Student Affairs Auxiliaries, such as the bookstore. The other 50 percent comes from a $35 increase in student fees, to $59.65 per semester, as voted on by a 2005 referendum. The increase in fees is slight when compared to those of other universities. There, students fund the centers completely, often with fees surpassing $100 per semester.

Student center

Beetle Bailey looks out over a rendering of a gaming area in the new student center.

The new student center will be not only state-of-the-art but also environmentally friendly. Sustain Mizzou, a student organization on campus, worked with committees to research and recommend strategies to reduce the environmental footprint of the new center. Some of the features include going trayless in dining areas; implementing a Green Cleaning Program; using packaging that is eco-friendly; purchasing Energy Star-rated appliances when possible; using sustainable finishes and recycled glass for building materials; and Campus Dining working with area growers to feature locally produced foods as seasonal specials on the menus.

The completion of this stage will be something for the university to show off after eight years of work. Though the construction started more recently, planning, voting and funding of the project has been under way since 2000.

“The goal for us is whatever experience you’ve had as a student, you’re going to be able to go into the new student center and find something to connect with. We want people to find who they are,” Froese says. “Students should be able to subliminally connect with their institution because not everybody is going to want to sit down and read about it. That’s what really excites me about the new student center; it’s been a long time coming.”

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012