Something that folks are talking about are the new residence halls at MSU. One, Ruby Hall, is almost complete. How will it be different than the dorms that the MSU students are currently using?
"It is more of a residential concept, more of the hotel type environment. There are private baths in each room. The halls are carpeted. The initial concept was it would be two-third singles and one-third doubles. It is my understanding that when the freshmen sent in their (room) requests, a lot of them wanted double rooms. So now we have a single, a single that some of the freshmen have decided that they want to double up in (the size is the same as a regular single), and a full double room. They will use bunk beds in the singles that will hold two people. Initially, the hall was going to hold 400 beds. Now I think they have 500 in it."
Isn't the room internet ready also?
"Yes, I think it is wireless. It has all the capabilities that a student would want in a residential hall."
How quickly has this building been built?
"It was constructed on a very fast schedule. When we occupy it, it will have been under construction for 10 months. Unless something drastic happens - which I don't foresee - I don't see any reason why we won't be in there on time. (However) it won't be 100% (complete) - there will be a punchlist of items that the contractor will have to fix."
What is the price of Ruby Hall?
"The total budget for that project was somewhere around 20 million dollars. That includes a lot of things like furnishings, landscaping and the buildings. This particular project was phased. We had a site work package, a building package, a demolition package and a hardscape package, which is the landscaping at the end of the sidewalks."
What is the actual size of the hall?
"157,261 square feet."
Is the courtyard in the middle of the residential hall for looks or is it something that the students can actually use?
"It is something where the kids can go out and throw frisbees or they can use the seating areas to relax. There will be lights outside so it will be very secure. Security was one of our major concerns."
Will someone be able to get inside the courtyard area without coming into the hall itself?
"It is card key access to the building. And you have to go through the lobbies to get to the courtyard. There will be a iron gate in the opening between the two buildings that can be locked."
When will Ruby Hall be ready for the students?
"The furniture is being moved in and the students will start moving in on the 13th (of August)."
[Both singles are 21'4" by 12'10", including the bathroom, in size. The double is 28'7" by 13'7" in size. To open the room door, the student, instead of using a key, will use the card swipe method similar to what you see in hotels, although it will read your card without having to actually swipe the card, sort of like the bar code style you see at most stores. The student's student ID card will have the ID code on it. For security reasons, the room number will not be displayed anywhere on the card. The bathrooms are a little over 10' by 8' in size and include a vanity with vanity lights above it, a shower, a closet, its own hot water heat, a medicine cabinet, and toilet area that has a door for privacy. Each room also has its own ac/heating unit similar to what you see in hotels. The hallways that students walk in to their rooms are are similar to what you see in hotels, although they are very, very well lit. There are vending areas, student student rooms that will have computers in them, and a kitchen area on each floor. Each room comes fully furnished, including a single bed, a refrigerator about 5' tall, a microwave on top of the refrigerator, a computer desk, a wardrobe for your clothing, and a three drawer chest-of-drawers. Ruby Hall, which is really two L-shape buildings separated by lobbies, will be co-ed. The guys will be in one hall and the girls will located in the other one.-Gene]
What is the status of the second residence hall?
"That has been bid and we have a low bidder, although the contracts have not been signed."
Do you have a price range for it?
"It will probably be in the 35 to 40 million dollar range. It will be about twice the size of Ruby Hall and will have about 800 beds in it."
Is it going to look like Ruby Hall?
"Ruby is more of the Ole Main concept where there were two Ls with an interior courtyard. This one will be three separate buildings forming a courtyard, so it's a little more open. It will be, approximately, 278,000 square feet.
Have you noticed any effects due to the new halls being built?
"I know that our freshmen applications are up a great deal due to the new residence hall."
CULLIS WADE DEPOT
What is the approximate cost of the Cullis Wade Depot?
"It is somewhere between 7 and 8 million dollars."
What is the building's size in square footage?
"It is 45,744 square feet; approximately 34,000 of that is the bookstore."
I've heard that Barnes and Noble will be involved with the bookstore. What exactly is their part in this project?
"Barnes and Noble will lease that space from Mississippi State. While they will be a tenant, it is an actual Barnes and Noble bookstore." [Click the following link to learn more about the Barnes and Noble college site - Barnes and Noble College Booksellers. - Gene]
What will go in the other 11,000+ square feet of the building?
"The rest of it will include a welcome center, where we, hopefully, can help people who visit the campus with directions. There will also be a clock museum.
"The building, which is two stories and will have an escalator, will be modeled after the railroad that came through the center of campus. It's right on the side of where the old railroad bed went through. That's why it will look a little like a train depot.
"This building will be the second building on campus that will be geo-thermal. We drill wells 200 to 300 feet into the ground and circulate our water through the ground to cool it to save energy."
The Cullis Wade Depot's groundwork has started. When do you expect the building to be completed?
"The contract started July 25th and they have until July 25th of 2006 to finish it."
[No state bonding will be used to build Cullis Wade Depot. It will be built with private and university funds.-Gene]
What are the plans for what was called Malfunction Junction or, as some folks call it, 5 Points?
"The area directly south of the M-Club is where Creelman (Street) is now. Creelman will be moved over toward Dorman. Then, we will create a giant green space in that area. In the green space, we hope to somehow give homage to the railroad that ran through there. We are currently in the process of starting the design of that now. In fact, I have a meeting about that this week with the engineers and a landscape architect.
"Mississippi State is going to be a pedestrian campus. The students and commuters will be parking on the periphery and taking shuttles into campus. Eventually, the interior of the campus will phase into a gated-parking situation where it will be used by staff and maintenance. We'll do that because the staff aren't driving during the day. The problem we are having now is when classes change it is nearly impossible to get through campus with the cars. And frankly, it is a dangerous situation. And our shuttle system hasn't worked because they can't get through the campus due to the traffic. The concept is to put the parking around the periphery, run the shuttle system in and out, so that it is a more functioning system for everybody.
"Really, this is not a new concept. Everybody is going to this concept because it's a safety issue more than anything else.
"In keeping with this concept, that is what is happening with the old Malfunction Junction. That is why we are doing the roads the way we are. We are going to be directing traffic toward the south and we will build parking lots in the south. Bully (Avenue) has been cut off and is now being re-routed down by the tennis courts. Eventually, we want to make the loop (road) system around the campus the periphery road."
Will the giant green area where malfunction junction used to be have a name?
"The name that is being thrown around right now is The Junction. I'm not saying that is what it will be called. When we talk about The Junction, that is what we are talking about."
Is the loop road the road on the MSU 20-yard master plan that looks like a bypass around the campus?
"Yes, if you can envision that being the major circulation (road) around the mall, that is similar. And what happens in a mall? It is pedestrian oriented."
When will the loop road be complete?
"I don't know if we have a definite endpoint, but everyday we definitely chip a little more off this rock and put it into shape. The street programs we are doing are from university funding. There is no state bond money involved in it."
You mentioned that you will have parking around the periphery of the campus. Where will you build all this parking?
"We already have parking around the coliseum. We have parking at the tennis courts and on Hardy Street."
Will all this road construction be going on when everybody gets back to campus?
"No, our goal is to finish all of that before the first day of class. And we will meet that goal. However, we will have one parking lot under construction during the fall. We are paving some gravel lots there. But right now, we are planning on what we will do next summer. That way, we can put things out for bids in January and February and get contractors on board so that we can move immediately."
COLVARD UNION RENOVATION
When will the renovation of the Union start?
"That should start in the spring. However, we have to figure out the movement of the bookstore in the Union to the (Cullis Wade Depot). The quicker the Cullis Wade Depot is completed, the quicker we can start on the Union. I don't want the Union project to extend into the fall if I can help it. I want to start it in the spring, but there is so much hinging on the completion of the Cullis Wade building. The bookstore is the key."
What exactly are you going to do at the Union?
"We will add 16,233 square feet. Right now, it is about 94,586 square feet. So, it'll be over 110,000 square feet when we are through with it."
Based on the blue print of the Union, it looks like it will become a gathering place on the campus. There are food vendors, retail outlets, and even a cyber cafe called the Dawgs House that has a DJ booth and a place for bands to play.
"It will. It will be totally student oriented. There will be, as you said, a little cyber cafe that will have a disc jockey and that can have bands. There may be a convenience store type operation and 3, 4 to 5 food vendors. All of that will be on the ground floor. We want it to bleed out to the bakery and the entire area to become an exterior mall type thing."
What will the second floor include?
"We'll have meeting spaces, offices and things like the student government. The ballroom will be expanded a little bit."
How long will it take to complete the construction of the Union?
"Right now, we have a construction schedule of about 19 months. One of the reasons for that is the phasing of the food vendors. We can't stop food service. Because of that, we have to get the ground level finished, then bring the vendors in. Then, we demolish the second floor. We think the first phase will take about a year. Then, the second phase about 9 months."
MCCOOL HALL ADDITION AND RENOVATION
What will you be doing with McCool Hall?
"We are going to do an addition to it and some renovation on the interior. We will add about 52,000 square feet. The building is currently 89,900 square feet."
What will the cost be?
"It is in the 8, 9 to 10 million dollar range."
What are you actually adding to the building?
"We are adding classroom space and an auditorium that will seat 350 students. We are also adding faculty offices on the third floor. And they are in desperate need of those."
Will you remove some of the parking that is on the west side of McCool Hall?
"McCool Hall is basically an L-shape building right now. We will fill in the space on the west side of it. That will cause us to lose some of the parking, but we'll have a shuttle route through there."
BIKE PATHS AND WALKING TRIALS
"We are extending the bike path and walking trail from highway 182 up the north entrance road to the Sanderson Rec Center. Then we will pick it up from there and send it through Ruby Hall and connect it to the Chapel, which connects to University Drive."
AG BIO ENGINEERING BUILDING
What are you going to do with the Ag Bio Engineering Building?
"We are building a new building. We are tearing down the old tin gym and the swimming pool and will build it there. The drawing are ready, but it is a state bonded project. I would imagine they would advertise it sometime in September, take bids in October and November and, hopefully, start the construction before the end of the year."
Do you have a price range and size for it?
"It's probably 7 or 8 million dollars and will be about 40,000 square feet."
RILEY PERFORMING ARTS PROJECT
Talk about the project that is currently going on in Meridian.
"The Riley Performing Arts project that we are currently working on in Meridian is an incredible project. It's downtown and will open in April of 2006. The Grand Opera House and the Mark Rothsman building were given to the university. The opera house dates back into the 1890's. It's being completely renovated. It will be a treasure for Mississippi State because it's a piece of history. It's a rare type of facility."
What will it be used for?
"It will be a conference center and an exhibition space. It will help revitalize downtown Meridian. It is a very exciting project that will represent Mississippi State well in Meridian."
HARNED HALL RENOVATION
What is the status of Harned Hall?
"We have part of the funding to renovate Harned Hall, which is the biology building across from Lee Hall. We hope to start that within the next year. We already have the architect on board."
LEE HALL ADDITION AND RENOVATION
What's going on with Lee Hall
"Basically, what we are doing is renovating the auditorium. We are adding air conditioners and adding dressing rooms. The reason for doing that is because we can't get some of the better plays and musicians to come here. The reason for that is they don't have anywhere to dress."
What does the project cost?
"It's under contract and is in the 3 to 3.5 million dollar range."
What's new with the cheese store?
"We've renovated and built a new cheese store. It should open within this month and will be in front of Herzer."
PARADE DRILL FIELD
Aren't you going to do some work on the Drill Field?
"We will put new sidewalks in within the next 120 days. We should start on that in 90 days. We will build ADA accessible sidewalks across it."
BAND HALL UPDATE
What's the status of the MSU band hall?
"We have asked for funding from the state to build a new band hall. We are now waiting to get that. That is at the top of our radar screen, along with a couple of other things."
SANDERSON REC CENTER
While I've got you, what's the square footage of the Sanderson Rec Center?
"It is 156,827."
What dorms have been torn down and what are the plans for the others?
"We tore down Duggar, Hightower and Hamblin. Critz and Smith are still up, but Smith, in this phase 2, will come down. We plan for Suttle to come down eventually. In that space will be an academic support facility."
When you complete all of these projects, what's next?
"We are now getting to the point where we have to focus on renovations. We have buildings like Lee Hall that are in desperate need of renovation."
Based on what you have told us during this interview, it seems like everything is being oriented towards the Mississippi State students.
"I want to say this. The administration that we now have is very pro active for students. Everything that we do is about the students and what is best for Mississippi State. (MSU President) Dr. Lee, Ray Hays, the vice-president of Finance and Administration, everything they do is about the students and what is best for Mississippi State. It's not about Dr. Lee, Ray Hays or anybody else. It's about what's best for Mississippi State. It's a family. And you do what is best for your family, not what's best for yourself. That is the attitude we have."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.