With a satisfying thwack, the dimpled white ball soared into the air, arced gracefully over the bunker, and bounced to a stop 150 yards up the fairway of the Pebble Beach course. Polite clapping from the assembled crowd rose briefly over the sounds of birds twittering in the trees, and the golfer turned aside with a smile to let the next player tee up. It’s just another day on the second floor of IUP’s new student union, where one can play any of fifty-two courses from all over the world on the two new virtual golf simulators.
When the expanded Hadley Union Building (HUB) opened seventeen years ago, the IUP community marveled at the state-of-the-art facility. From the open atrium and the new bookstore to the meeting rooms, food court, and large fitness center, it was everything that the university could have hoped for in a student center.
Take all of that and double it. The new HUB expansion is a quantum step beyond the familiar red-bricked arched building. The food court has been expanded to six eateries, the Penn staff and Student Congress have new offices, data ports are available in every lounge, and the computerized golf simulators are ready for novices and pros alike. In addition, the HUB boasts an amazing fitness center, capable of handling up to 425 people at once.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Dennis Hulings, executive director of the Student Co-op Association. “We’ve done a lot of surveying trying to find out what the students want. I think we’re offering a facility the students are really going to want to take advantage of.”
The older building served well as a student union, but its use by students and faculty decreased over time. Pete Goldsmith, IUP vice president of Student Affairs, wanted to reenergize the student union and make the HUB a destination for the university community. One of the project’s main goals was to give students a place to eat, study, and exercise without leaving the campus.
It’s not just what the HUB offers that makes it so appealing. The attractive design pulls one’s vision up into the atrium that extends two stories up to the ceiling. An open framework of supports and arches surrounds large open windows that let in lots of natural light, increasing the feeling of spaciousness. Designed by Paul Knell and Warren Bulseco from WTW Architects (the same firm that designed the original HUB building), the $17-million project is ready for the twenty-first century.
The entire building is hardwired for technological compatibility, with telephone lines, networking cables, and power lines all wired to single sockets, and with all routing of the building’s communication lines done from a central switchboard. This is a large step up from the original HUB where some offices had networking cables literally hanging out of the ceiling.
The older part of the HUB will still be home to the Co-op Store (university bookstore), which will expand to cover the entire lower floor, and PNC Bank will continue to operate its branch office upstairs. The new HUB sits behind it, in the space formerly occupied by the original HUB expansion, the old Theta Chi fraternity house, and part of Union Station Mall.
Possibly the biggest attraction is the fitness center. In addition to four racquetball courts (which are easily converted to volleyball courts), there are two aerobics/dance studios featuring “floating floors” able to provide 70 percent resistance to impact. One of these studios is equipped with twenty-five exercise bikes. The main floor of the fitness center is 16,000 square feet. With a large free-weight area, Nautilus and Cybex machines, and sixty-seven cardiovascular machines including treadmills, rowers, and exercise bikes, the center has the capacity to handle 425 people at once.
The front wall of the fitness center is a wide expanse of windows, bringing light into the center during the day and producing a glow outside at night. Television monitors mounted high on the walls and a wireless sound system provide distractions during long exercise routines. They also provide parents with the ability to monitor their children in the upstairs care center. Individualized private showers and heated saunas help round out the main floor of the fitness center.
IUP is the first school in the state to have the advanced golf simulators, which are not video games but computer-run facilities that demand real clubs and real effort. Duffers and pros alike, using standard golf equipment, can play on some of the world’s finest golf courses. Each machine can accommodate four players at once, immersing the golfers in a virtual golf course via state-of-the-art infrared technology and high-resolution graphics and sound.
The system features an impressive large-picture projection screen image of the selected golf course or driving range. Golfers need not be afraid of putting their full strength into the swing, because the screen absorbs the ball's impact. The computer system detects the ball's speed, trajectory, and spin and moves the players to the fairways, the rough, or right to the green. The HUB plans to sponsor golf leagues and give lessons, possibly from a PGA pro.
The last phase of the project will be to renovate the old student union. In addition to consolidating bookstore operations into the lower floor, the project will add new restrooms, meeting rooms, and a large central lounge and will include renovations to the renamed Multipurpose room and its adjacent kitchen. This construction is scheduled for completion by the Fall, 2002, semester.
Despite remaining construction barricades, the recently opened student union has fast become a center for work, exercise, and relaxation. Aptly named, the building complex is well suited as a hub for student life in the new century.