The Daily Gamecock

Board votes to renovate Russell House floors

Terazzo to replace brick for $437,000

USC’s board of trustees gave quick backing to 12,000 square feet of new flooring in the Russell House, agreeing to replace battle-worn brick with $437,000 of terrific terazzo.

But the board was a little more hesitant to approve “up to $450,000” for improvements to USC’s alpine tower and high ropes course, built last year by USC’s outdoor recreation department for $100,000, according to Jerry Brewer, USC’s associate vice president for student affairs. They eventually relented after several incisive questions, a request for a specific construction plan and a few jokes about a potential board retreat to the tower. The board’s decision not to hold a staff retreat on the swinging ropes high in the sky came much easier than its approval to improve the existing course.

The approvals, given in the afternoon’s building and grounds session, capped a day filled with lots of information but few official votes. The Russell House renovations — set to install flooring identical to that of the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center — will repair a litany of flooring problems that result from decades old facilities, increased student population and lots of incidents over the years, said Dennis Pruitt, USC’s vice president for student affairs. Upgrades will recreate the flooring for much of the second floor, minus the Gamecock Park region of fast food restaurants. It will also add terazzo flooring to the several flights of steps that connect the Russell House basement to the sparsely-populated fourth floor.

“It’s important that we have the best student union that we can have,” said Kim McMahon, the director of the Russell House. “We want a bright, cleaner look. The beauty of terazzo is that you can put unique designs on it, like the big star piece in the middle at the Strom. We could do a Cocky, a USC on it.”

The project is part of a larger effort to improve USC’s student union offerings. A study to examine the university’s current offerings and compare them to other institutions is slated to begin within two months. Officials may consider building a second “satellite” student union or upping the Russell House’s square footage. Earlier this year, the Russell House’s third floor received a $155,000 makeover that includes futuristic furniture and high-definition TVs.

More than 12,000 students traverse through the student union each day, Pruitt said. And the facility hasn’t seen any size upgrades in more than three decades. Renovations will occur in July and take approximately five weeks, according to USC officials.

Pruitt and his staff faced a tougher line of questioning — but an eventual OK — when they proposed a new security fence and a permanent structure, complete with restrooms, a first aid room and a small conference room — for the alpine tower and high ropes course. The fence would keep out tipsy trespassers who want to errantly climb the wall on their stumble back to Bates House. The structure would provide a permanent shelter from the heat, a place to treat injuries and a conference room to regroup and discuss what groups learned about teamwork on the obstacle course.

The tower has attracted a constant stream of groups, so many the university is currently hiring for a second position to staff the facility.

But it will up the price of the project — initially at $100,000 — to around $375,000 or more. The improvements should top at $275,000 and not reach the threshold approved by the board, according to estimates from Brewer. The project will be funded with campus recreation funds, which originate from student fees. A significant portion of the project’s cost comes from installing water and sewer facilities to the tower and course, located behind Blatt near Bates House, according to Brewer.

The board also raised the price of the South Tower project to put a new roof on the building. That project is priced at $6.7 million but won’t be completed for several years. Board members praised the Patterson Residence Hall upgrades, saying they’d heard a slew of positive reviews.


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