Unlocking The Union’s secrets


Keith Skogstad, Assistant Director of Student Activities walks through one of the maintenance tunnels that run under The Union and other sections of campus.


Updates, maintenance tunnels make up Student Union history

About 8,500 people enter the Student Union every day, but few know its inner workings.

One of The Union’s best kept secrets are the maintenance tunnels that connect to The Union and run to various locations throughout campus.

Keith Skogstad, assistant director of The Union, recalled six tunnels beneath the ground of campus, but he is unsure of the exact amount.

The tunnels transport steam to heat South Dakota State’s buildings and some water pipes. There are above ground entrances to the tunnels, but the entrances are locked.

The Union has undergone two major additions since being built in 1974. There have also been several minor modifications and renovations. In 2004, the addition included Main Street, adding conference rooms, updating the Market portion and constructing the Volstorff Ballroom. The second addition focused on adding more dining options in 2013.

“I almost challenge someone that doesn’t know the building to tell me where was it added on at,” Skogstad said. “Because I know. I know exactly where things are, but to a naked eye, can you tell what was the original footprint of The Union and where it was added on at?”

He attributes the smooth transitions from one section of the building to the next to the contractors who worked on each addition.

Skogstad has worked in the building since 2005. His role is to oversee the custodians, maintenance and computer support.

During his time at The Union, he has adjusted to the noises and quirks of the 43-year-old building.

“When you walk through this building and there’s nobody in it—things happen,” he said. “I usually know exactly what they are.”

Almost every person at SDSU has their favorite aspect of the building.

Miranda McDowell, nursing major, said she is in the building at least three times a week.

She eats lunch with her friends in the lower level of The Union, she studies in the Upper Level and she sees people she hasn’t talked to for a while on the Main Level.

For her, each level of The Union offers her a different experience. McDowell’s favorite aspect of The Union may be the atmosphere in the different levels, but her favorite thing about The Union is chocolatey and covered in cream cheese.

Each week she treats herself to a chocolate chip bagel from Einstein’s, one of the dining locations in The Union.

“That’s my once a week happy moment,” she said.

KayCee Shepardson, one of The Union managers, gets a privilege most students can’t say they’ve had. She helps oversee the building.

She and other Union managers focus on making sure everything’s running smoothly in the building.

Shepardson’s job has given her a different view of what happens in The Union.

“We (Union managers) get to see the back hallways and how hard the people are working behind the scenes between Aramark and a lot of the food stuff,” she said. “They are so busy back there trying to feed how many thousands of people. The maintenance guys are going everywhere fixing things.”

While working with the summer crew and prior to becoming a Union manager, she found a portion of The Union that stood out to her.

Behind the doors of the elevator near Einstein’s, Shepardson said, there are at least 10 years worth of student names written on the wall. She also likes the chairs in the Cottonwood room.

The Main Street of The Union is Skogstad’s favorite feature in the building.

The Main Street was added during the 2004 edition, and he remembers when several people were trying to decide a name for the walkway.

“The idea was that most of our students are from small town America—mostly South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa. Everybody’s got a Main Street so let’s call it Main Street,” Skogstad said. “People can come from their small towns and realize they’ve still got a Main Street.”

In addition to bringing a Main Street to campus, The Union also acts as a focal point. Skogstad said he can see and feel the vibrancy coming from the building at night. He also likes how open it is and the sense of amazement students have when they first walk down Main Street.

“I think that Main Street really kicks it,” Skogstad said. “It really does.”