The old Rice Family Bookstore, soon to be known as the Rice Family Pavilion, is undergoing renovations to convert the building into a new medium-sized event space for the campus community.
The majority of the renovations taking place are infrastructural in nature and will have little effect on the aesthetics of building’s architecture.
Renovations will continue for the rest of the term and next semester. They are planned to be completed in time for the beginning of the 2018 academic year. However, the long term vision of the project may help relieve some of those daily pains.
The decision to create a new event space for the Rollins community was made earlier last year through a careful deliberation process which involved input from several offices and services on campus, including senior administration, the bookstore, food services, IT, and Facilities. The opportunity to renovate the building came after Rollins administration made the choice to move the bookstore off campus. The bookstore was the space’s previous occupant.
The new space will be capable of holding a variety of events. According to Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management Scott Bitikofer,
“We have never had a venue on campus for medium-sized events—events too big for the Galloway room, and too small for the McKean gymnasium.”
Morgan Laner ‘18, a leader of many organizations that could possibly use the space, shared her opinion on the renovations: “I think that this new center will be a positive addition to the campus long term. It will definitely help the scheduling issues that student organizations face.”
Bitikofer was sure to clarify that the campus community was at the heart of this decision.
“This will provide that venue and should directly benefit students and their organizations.” he said.
The renovated space will also feature a full-service kitchen, capable of hosting formal dinners of up to 250 guests. The space will be available for reservation by student organizations as well as fraternities and sororities.
However, Laner also had some hesitancy about increasing off-campus involvement. “I also think that it will be used a lot for off-campus groups [to] take advantage of Rollins’ beauty and location. I’m just hoping that it maintains the Rollins community and doesn’t focus too much externally!” It is unclear how much the space will be used by off-campus parties.
Some students also find this ongoing construction challenging, as it blocks some key pathways. Silvana Montañola ‘20, a resident of Strong Hall (which is one of the closest residence halls to the construction), says, “I find it extremely inconvenient to walk to all of my classes from Strong… I have to take alternate routes that take more time out of my schedule. It also takes away from the beauty of the campus.”
According to Bitikofer, the renovations to the building will cost the school around $5 million. The majority of these costs come from infrastructural changes that are necessary to new functions of the building, including “power, sewer, water, chilled water for air conditioning, and an IT hub for campus network.”
The decision to allow outside (non-Rollins) parties to rent the space when it is not being used by members of the Rollins community was made in an effort to recover a portion of these costs and the general costs of operating such a facility.
Part of what will set this space apart from others on campus is the full-service kitchen being installed in the building’s basement. Previously, all widely available event spaces had to rely on remote delivery from Dining Services in order to provide guests with food. This will provide special options for event hosts that were never available before.
While these changes are certainly a shift for the current campus community, it is actually “a return to [the building’s] roots” according to Bitikofer. When first constructed in 1941, the facility, originally known as ‘The Student Center,’ provided “a location for the community to gather, [and] we are trying to be faithful to its original mission and purpose.”
In addition, the Rollins history housed within the facility will remain. According a release sent out by Facilities in October, the “hand-painted vaulted ceiling and fireplace will remain largely as is.”