After undergoing significant renovations in layout and appearance, the University Union’s basement will be open for business next week.
Starting Feb. 10, Binghamton University will reopen the University Union’s basement as the University Undergrounds. Students may notice a drastic change from the old basement, but there will still be familiar amenities to enjoy. The billiards room has been opened up into a large pathway and the table tennis room is now a multipurpose room. Billiards and table tennis will now be located in an area called The Den, which will also have foosball and shuffleboard tables.
The bowling alley has been upgraded with an electronic scoring system. The Undergrounds Lounge now matches BU’s colors and the Food Co-op’s space has a new countertop with built-in soup wells to serve customers. While students will be able to access most of the new Undergrounds on Feb. 10, the bowling alley, Food Co-op and offices in Undergrounds will be opening slightly later.
According to Orrin Kenyon, assistant director of University Union operations, the main focus of the renovation was to turn underutilized space into areas for students to study and collaborate on work.
“A couple years ago, when I first started, there was a big emphasis on ‘Students feel like we don’t have enough studying space,’’’ Kenyon said. “So what are some underutilized spaces? And that’s what this became.”
Renovations began in summer 2018 and were originally supposed to be completed by Dec. 1, 2019. However, delays pushed the opening to the spring semester.
“A lot of the decisions that were made were once we really got into the details we wanted to do it right,” Kenyon said. “So instead of rushing a project to be done Jan. 1 and cutting corners, let’s make sure things get done.”
Along with the more open concept in the Undergrounds, Kenyon said glass walls and doors have been installed in rooms such as the bowling alley and the Food Co-op to fulfill the central vision of the renovation.
“The idea was really to make the space more open, accessible, visible, ‘see and be seen,’” Kenyon said. “We’ve been going to some conferences about unions and activities and that’s the big thing is showing glass so you can see through what’s going on or having nice lighting and a place to relax and do that stuff.”
Anna Levenberg, a junior double-majoring in mathematics and computer science, said she is looking forward to spending her free time in the Undergrounds after the reopening.
“I’m very happy — I miss them — it’s a really good place to hang out, eat lunch,” Levenberg said. “I live off campus so it’s really nice to go there between classes.”
Others, like Samori Emmanuel, a senior majoring in computer engineering, are looking for a place to relax on campus.
“In the Underground where the couches were, I used to take naps down there,” Emmanuel said. “That was the prime spot to nap on campus.”
The Undergrounds can also be utilized by clubs and other organizations to host their events. Ryan Gonzalez, a senior majoring in economics, is looking forward to using the space for the Video Game Association.
“I’m glad it’s finally coming to completion,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a little empty in here without the big sprawling Undergrounds. I was with the [Video Game Association], mainly the fighting game club, that big place was usually the norm because we had so many people. With that out of the way we had to switch to some of these regular classrooms.”
Some students are preparing to experience the Undergrounds for the first time, such as Zikiyah Francis, a freshman majoring in business administration.
“I’m excited because I remember when I came here [for a tour] — because I’ve been to [BU] like twice on two different trips, or three times in high school — when I saw it the first time I was like, ‘Oh this is so cool,’” Francis said. “And when I came [as a student], I was like, ‘It’s closed, ahh.’ So I’m excited for it to open up.”