New and Improved: Renovations of Port Sky Café and the Slep Student Center - Winter 2013 Ivy Leaf Magazine

Ivy Leaf - Winter 2013

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New and Improved

Renovations of Port Sky Café and the Slep Student Center

Port Sky Reno

When Penn State Altoona students stepped into Port Sky Café this semester, some had to do a double-take to make sure they were in the right building.

“When I came in here, I couldn’t even tell where I was standing compared to last year,” says Stephen Dawkins, ’10, and a former Port-Sky employee.

Planning for the renovation began in fall 2010 when Penn State Altoona administration saw a need to accommodate the increasing population of the college and to make room for new ideas, more variety, and better service. Construction began the week after Altoona’s spring 2012 graduation. It was the first major renovation to the dining hall since 1994.

“We had meetings with students and campus groups,” states Alison Bonsell, director of Housing and Food Services at Penn State Altoona. “I pulled in some of my student employees. We wanted to know what their friends were saying. The students hear more wish lists than anyone else.”

WTW Architects and Turner Construction took on the project. Bonsell said she, along with her staff and students, were excited about the project from the get-go.

“We now have a gas-fired pizza oven, three dining spaces, and neat flat-screen TVs in each of the dining rooms,” Bonsell says. “There are many more options every day.”

The renovated building provides a convenient connection from the residence areas to the academic buildings on campus. And within the building there are now two entrances to the service area, optimizing the flow of traffic and reducing the crowding that was a concern before the renovation.

“We built a whole new dining room and made special meeting spaces. We doubled the size of the service area,” Bonsell says. “We gave the students a lot more space.”

Along with the major changes to décor and layout, new and returning students couldn’t help but notice the immense variety the new dining hall features on its menus. Penn State Altoona became the first campus to combine products from the Berkey Creamery, the Penn State Bakery, and Starbucks at one station, called Shake, Bake, and Brew. Breakfast served until 4 p.m. and a chopped-salad station are other additions to the Port Sky repertoire.

First-year student and psychology major Amanda Hammer sums up the sentiment of the student body: “There’s something new every day!”

Slep Reno

In the summer of 2011, a committee comprised of administrators, students, architects, engineers, and Student Affairs staff was formed to consider renovations to the front area of the Harry E. Slep Student Center. Primary among the concerns addressed by the committee was increasing the usable space available to students for programming and other activities. The committee also considered how to transform the almost 50-year-old space into something attractive and accommodating to meet student preferences. Through the evolution of the project, students expressed that they wanted space for relaxation and study, as well as space that would accommodate various student organization programs and activities.

On April 16, 2012, the front section of the Slep Student Center was closed for demolition following a paint party the night before, featuring David Garibaldi, a finalist on America’s Got Talent. Garibaldi painted a number of portraits, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, and the Penn State Nittany Lion logo, which now hang in the renovated space. Students were able to paint the walls, floors, ceiling, and each other as they celebrated the end of the old Slep space, last renovated in 1995. Through the remodeling process, two of the most notable changes include extending the front of the building toward the pond to incorporate the former outdoor portico area into usable indoor space, and the addition of a double-sided fireplace.

In August, the newly renovated Pond View Lounge (formerly known as the TV Lounge), Central Lounge, and Fireside Lounge were opened for use. Students have expressed their appreciation for the new renovations that provide a warm, inviting area around the fireplace, gaming systems for downtime between classes, and a convenient place to gather and participate in activities ranging from blood drives to poster sales, and from speakers to hip-hop dances. The Fireside Lounge provides quiet study space, when not scheduled for student programs, and the window walls allow for multiple events to occur at the same time.