It was a “miraculous” day for President John Lahey, as “the crown jewel of the shining city on the hill” officially opened.
Quinnipiac’s Department of Student Center and Campus Life celebrated the grand opening of the Rocky Top Student Center last Friday with some fun facts about the construction of the recently completed student center and a York Hill history lesson.
Jeff Riley, lead architect and partner-in-charge of Centerbrook Architects, told the audience all about the construction of the building and challenged them to find the 290 bobcats hidden throughout the design of the student center.
The 1.5 million square feet of space on the York Hill campus was constructed over the course of eight years by 31 architects, 29 engineers, 600 construction workers and 1.2 million bricks, Riley said.
“My favorite part was when the architect came up and started talking about all these statistics about the building and how it’s a green campus and uses solar panels and geothermal technology to heat the buildings,” sophomore Andrea Rogers said. “It’s really interesting how we’re evolving into a green campus – it’s really great.”
Lahey described the York Hill campus as “one of the greenest campuses in America.” The green initiatives included both recycling old materials while conserving and creating energy. All 750,000 cubic yards of dirt and rock excavated during construction was used to build the campus. All the trees that were cut down were milled and processed into the lumber that holds up the student center. The large chandelier is made of recycled jet engine parts, Riley said.
Back in the 1900s, the land this campus occupies was still called York Hill, and was advertised as a mini-Berkshire. It was home to cabins, campgrounds and a place for people to come and visit to enjoy the panoramic views, Lahey said.
The largest cabin at the top of the hill was called Rocky Top. The school has attempted to preserve the history of this property by ingraining the names “York Hill” and “Rocky Top” into the Quinnipiac community.
“It is a community,” Associate Director of Student Center & Leadership Development Nicolette Yevich said. “Students have lived up [at York Hill] for a year and they didn’t have that. It wasn’t just about living here, but it was the complete package and having access to this kind of space and this idea of a junior/senior campus where you got students who are more tied into their major.”
Parts of Rocky Top have been slowly opening up since the school year began. The new student center currently includes a 500-seat dining hall, fitness center, six meeting rooms, security offices and a post office. According to Director of Health Services Kathryn Macaione, no timetable exists for a staffed health center on the York Hill campus.
“We wanted this center to be for students,” Lahey said. “The student center is obviously the most visible building since we placed it on the high point of the campus. So, we really hope with the athletic center that this will really be the center of activity.”
Last year, students had to trek down to the Mount Carmel campus to use many of the amenities, but now York Hill students have their own student center.
“We wanted to provide York Hill students with the same opportunities and the same services on the Mount Carmel campus,” said Daniel Brown, director of the Student Center and Campus Life. “We wanted to create that same sense of community with this student center.”
And according to Lahey, Quinnipiac finally has a chance to breathe.
“I’ve been here for 24 years. The only issues we’ve had with space is that we haven’t had enough,” Lahey said. “Everything is overcrowded; we don’t have enough parking, offices, classrooms, faculty offices and so on. This is the first time in 24 years that we have more space than we actually use. There’s places that look half-empty. In the months and years ahead, I have no doubt we’ll put these facilities to good use.”
Photo credit: Alessia Tranfaglia