As N.C. State University students returned to campus this week, they found a new, improved and much larger Talley Student Union.
The university has spent five years remodeling the hub of student life, with a look and feel that some students compare to Crabtree Valley Mall.
“It feels like I’m going into a movie,” freshman Emma Lampe said this week, as she walked through the soaring space.
The new design expands the union to four floors and 283,000 square feet. It’s aimed at giving students a centralized, large and open space where they can hold events, study, hang out, eat, brainstorm and share ideas.
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Eileen Coombes, director of student involvement, said she hopes students feel more connected to campus in the new union. It was designed in a way so students could come in, see everything at once and know who is there and what’s going on.
“Talley was a place they stopped in real quick,” she said. “Now, it’s a place they hopefully come to stay.”
It’s also a space for the Raleigh community to enjoy. The new Talley Market features the school’s famous Howling Cow ice cream, made on campus with cream from the university’s dairy herd. The sweetness continues with the Yates Mill Bakery, named as a tribute to the historic and refurbished mill on Lake Wheeler Road, which is owned by N.C. State.
“It’s a great place to stop in if you’re wandering at Pullen Park or going over to the athletic fields,” said Jennifer Gilmore, director of marketing and communication. “It’s not just a building for N.C. State. It’s a building for Raleigh and North Carolina.”
The new ballroom seats 800 and is open to the public for meetings, conferences or weddings.
Even the Stewart Theatre – which hosts student performances and outside acts – got a face-lift with a new entrance and updated audio, sound and lighting systems.
There are a number vendors in the food court, from Mexican to pizza to sushi. Two coffee shops were added: Starbucks and Port City Java. And coming soon is a tapas-style restaurant with table service.
The 40,000-square-foot expanded book store, now called Wolfpack Outfitters, offers a wider range of N.C. State apparel and merchandise. It also provides almost everything a student living on campus could need, from a Clinique makeup stand to a full Apple store.
“I’ve only said, ‘Sorry, we don’t have that’ maybe three times in the last two months,” said senior Lamin Darboe, who works at the bookstore.
Darboe said he likes the modern department store mixed with something students always need – books. It makes the bookstore a fun place to come instead of a place you come once a semester for textbooks.
“Most people have been saying they never expected it to look this good,” he said.
Gilmore said the campus look and feel can be the determining factor for perspective students.
“I believe that once a student narrows down what they want to study and the list of universities, it’s the amenities and how they feel when they visit campus that tip the scale for a lot of students,” she said.
Planning for the $120 million project started in 2010, and the university broke ground in 2011. Students were able to use parts of the union as construction took place.
But now all scaffolding and detours are gone. The new union looks “shiny and new,” said junior Estefania Castro. She said the large number of tables and comfy chairs will be particularly useful during exams when the libraries and study spaces fill up quickly.
Talley Student Union
2610 Cates Avenue, next to Reynolds Coliseum. 919-515-3138, http://campusenterprises.ncsu.edu/talley-student-union/
▪ Grand opening celebration: 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 9
▪ Chocolate Festival: 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 11
▪ Watch home football – N.C. State vs. East Kentucky – on the lawn: Pre-game at 4:30 p.m., game at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12
▪ Crafts Fair: starts at 1 p.m. on Sept. 13
For Stewart Theatre schedule, visit: www.ncsu.edu/centerstage/currentseason/index.html
N.C. State will celebrate the opening of the school year on Saturday with Packapalooza, a free all-day block party and street festival from 2 to 10 p.m. on Hillsborough Street, which will be closed to traffic from the Pullen Roundabout to Brooks Avenue. Last year’s Packapalooza drew more than 55,000 people, according to the university. Go to http://packapalooza.ncsu.edu/