Project in motion: SDSU to use student suggestions in coming Larson’s renovations

Renovation may include remodel of cafeteria and first floor stores, upstairs bathrooms and expansion

Beth Nagel, Reporter

Ideas from students will be used to help university officials plan an upcoming renovation for Larson Commons. 

With the last remodel being 12 years ago, it’s time for Larson Commons to be refreshed and become more in tune with student insights, said Doug Wermedal, associate vice president for Student Affairs. 

“We want to provide students more than just the Union as a place to really feel relaxed, get a quick meal if they want or have a hangout spot if they want,” Wermedal said.

A university survey showed that students are looking for more nutritional meals and greater focus on a healthy lifestyle. In the current study phase of this project, university officials are looking at the student feedback they received so that the future Larson Commons can be responsive to their needs. 

Along with assessing the meals served at Larson Commons, Keith Skogstad, project manager for Facilities and Services, said the study phase reviews the building’s needs, goals and priorities for what could be accomplished within the building. 

Wermedal said one project element that is certain is adding bathrooms to the upper level. Additional remodel considerations include redoing the serving area, updating the lighting, carpet and furniture and reconfiguring the entrance and exit. 

The cost of student meal plans will not increase to pay for this project. The money will come from funds that have been set aside for maintenance and repair. The South Dakota Board of Regents requires all revenue-generating buildings to save for such upkeeping. 

Any construction activity is at least two years away, Wermedal said. Future steps include approval by the Board of Regents, bidding and design. 

Nicole Schilling, a sophomore food science major, said she is excited for the change the renovation will bring to the environment of the building.

“If the design comes out the way they are planning it, it will be very modern, so I think it will be a cool atmosphere. I think that will be really exciting,” she said. “It’ll be a very different experience than it is now.”

Skogstad recalled the last time Larson Commons was refinished and the excitement students felt. He said keeping buildings fresh and up to date is important, and sometimes that just looks like a new coat of paint. In the case of Larson Commons, more is needed to keep it consistent with student needs. 

Wermedal said the most important thing to know is that the project is in motion. 

“We’ve engaged students to help inform design process so it won’t be some product of ‘we’ve got this much money and we’re going to have this result,’” he said. “We’re going to keep students involved to make sure it stays on track.”

Larson Commons is named for Rudolf Larson, who served as the South Dakota State College secretary from 1901-1959.