By Ty Beaver / Tri-City Herald
The next new building on the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus won’t have classrooms, but it could have a game room.
Almost 80 percent of students who voted this week approved a new $100 semester fee to help pay for a student union, estimated to cost about $5 million.
Only about 266 of the university’s 1,426 students, or 19 percent, voted in the election. University officials and student leaders said turnout was typical of other student elections.
“They really want a non-academic student space on campus,” said student body President Rigo Leon.
It will still be some time before the union becomes a reality. University officials estimated it will take at least a year before ground is broken on the project, but said it’s an important part of growing the university.
“This will really help propel us to the next level,” said Chris Meiers, vice chancellor of enrollment management and student services.
There is a student lounge in the West Building on campus, and a few other places scattered throughout where students congregate and study.
However, those spaces are cramped or part of larger public areas.
Initial plans called for the union to be built behind the Consolidated Information Center. It would be a single-level structure encompassing about 6,000 square feet, student leaders said.
Designs haven’t been finalized, but a lobby, lounge, study room, computer lab and game room could be included, student officials said.
The student fee, which will generate an estimated $300,000 a year, won’t pay for the full cost. Student leaders have about $1.5 million in reserve money that will go to the project. The university will contribute the proceeds from the sale of some land on George Washington Way near Hanford High School. That contribution could add up to about $1.3 million.
“This is a historic event on the eve of out 25th anniversary which speaks to the tenet of ‘Dynamic Student Engagement,’” said Chancellor Keith Moo-Young in a statement. “Our students want a 21st-century campus experience. The new student union, when built, will be a cornerstone for our student and campus experience.”
The next step is to finalize the building’s design before seeking approval from the WSU Board of Regents, Meiers said. There will be opportunities for students to give feedback throughout that entire process.
It’s not fully clear when the union would open, with Meiers projecting it could be two to three years before the project is finished.
“It all depends on how fast we can move,” he said.