The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

June 9, 2014

Student activities center to serve many functions

LEWISBURG — Editor’s note: This is the last of a three-part series detailing the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s master plan.

With a projected construction cost topping $20 million, the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s new Student Activities Center is designed to serve a variety of functions.

In addition to being one of the largest structures on the school’s Lewisburg campus, the new facility will also boast one of the tallest features in the entire city — a 125-foot-tall clock tower that is being funded by the WVSOM Alumni Association.

At the time the announcement of the tower’s impending construction was made, WVSOM President Dr. Michael Adelman was quoted in a press release saying, “The clock tower will be a visible landmark for the school and the community — even drivers on Interstate 64 will be able to see it.”

With ground-breaking on the 67,000-square-foot Student Activities Center held little more than a week ago and public grumblings about the amount of construction now under way on campus, however, school officials recently downplayed the claims about the tower’s prominence.

“There is so much foliage in and around the site, the clock tower probably won’t be visible off campus, except in the late fall and winter, when the leaves fall off the trees,” said Denise Getson, director of marketing and public relations at WVSOM.

Getson also answered questions about the tower’s potential impact on air traffic bound to and from Greenbrier Valley Airport in Maxwelton, only about five miles north of the school.

“The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has reviewed our plans and says there is nothing about the tower that would impact traffic in and around the local airport,” she said.

A key part of Phase 1 of WVSOM’s Facilities Master Plan, construction of the Activities Center is expected to reach a conclusion in 2016, according to the medical school’s president.

“It’s going to be a great building,” Adelman said.

In addition to the soaring clock tower, the Activities Center is designed to include separate lounges in which students can study and enjoy recreational pursuits, along with a spacious dining lounge and food court. A campus store, lobby, storage and rest rooms round out the building’s first floor.

The second story is dominated by what Adelman calls a “convention center/meeting hall,” a 15,000-square-foot space that will serve multiple functions.

That 800- to 1,000-seat “conference hall,” Getson said, will enable the school to bring together students from all four classes, plus faculty and staff, for certain special events.

“We can conduct lectures there and student activities,” she said, adding that the two largest single gatherings on campus — the White Coat Ceremony during which new students are welcomed in the fall and graduation in the spring — will continue to be staged in an enormous tent which is erected for those events on the Parade Grounds in the heart of the campus.

Adelman emphasized that the new meeting hall will be available for community use as well as for medical school functions, saying the size of the room, along with an elevated stage centering one side, makes it ideal for small to midsize conferences or conventions. The hall can also be subdivided into several smaller rooms via folding walls.

“The community has been trying to get something like this convention space in Lewisburg for several years,” Adelman said. “Several organizations have expressed interest in bringing meetings here. It could well mean more business for the community’s hotels and restaurants.”

The second floor of the Activities Center will also contain a president’s reception parlor, a modest catering kitchen, a pair of pre-function areas, the upper level of the two-story campus store, storage, rest rooms and an entry lobby.

Despite its technical location on the upper level of the building, that entry will be on grade, Adelman said, noting the structure was designed to take advantage of the slope of the land, making its frontage on Greenbrier Road appear to be only one story in height.

“That helps it blend in better with the rest of campus and with the neighborhood,” Adelman said.

Since a parking lot located behind the southeastern corner of the school’s Main Building “B” complex has been removed to make way for the new Student Activities Center, other parking areas around the periphery of campus will be or already are being expanded, Getson said.

“Our goal is to create a much more pedestrian-friendly campus,” she said.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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