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A place to hang out

Dustin Jensen, the dean of engagement and student affairs at the University of Jamestown, on Aug. 10 standing at the entrance to the Student JHouse, UJ’s first student union opening this fall semester in the Hansen Center. Tom LaVenture / The Sun

University of Jamestown students will have their first student union this fall.

The Hansen Center's new purpose is the Student JHouse, a student engagement area, said Dustin Jensen, dean of UJ engagement and student affairs. There are other recreational rooms but this is an entire building for a recreation facility, he said.

"It's just another one of the many things that we are trying to do to make sure the kids are having the best experience up here," Jensen said. "The one thing we don't have on campus is that big, fun hangout space that just has anything and everything."

Alex Delzer, UJ Student Senate president, said there are lounges and coffee bars but the J-House is designed as a central location to just hang out. People will still study in the library and use the other spaces but the Hansen Center is now the all-hours space to organize a table-tennis tournament or find some nice quiet corner to do some late-night homework, he said.

"I am really excited to see how it will be used," Delzer said. "They've done a great job setting it up and putting things inside that people will enjoy."

The student senate will observe the foot traffic to see how students use the Hansen Center, he said. The information will provide input for renovations, he said.

"It will be cool to watch and learn how the space is utilized this year," Delzer said.

The Hansen Center had housed the wrestling and volleyball programs along with athletic storage, training and locker rooms until Harold Newman Arena opened in 2017. The JHouse will be a test run for the Hansen Center as a student union, he said.

"We are bringing in all the things that should attract students to use it," Jensen said. "If it's not the right facility then another space will be considered."

The building opened as Memorial Gymnasium in 1923 and still has a basketball court for use as a dance floor or intramural sports, Jensen said. The building was named the Hansen Center after Gordon and Charlotte Hansen of Jamestown's contribution to a $750,000 renovation in 1993.

The Hansen family was instrumental in repurposing the building as a student union, he said. Jensen declined to provide the amount of the Hansen donation or the phase one construction costs for JHouse.

Sodexo, the food services contractor, will operate the snack room, Jensen said. If the students utilize the building then phase two will include a renovation of it, he said.

After speaking with all campus clubs and departments, Jensen said the consensus was that the JHouse should be an organized but organically driven student union. The students wanted a hangout space with a laid-back feel and the ability for spontaneous fun, he said.

Students liked the idea of movie theater space and a game room, he said. There was also demand for space that could be used for open mic events and performances.

The students wanted an area to compete and that would be available late night, Jensen said. Creating spaces like this help students develop friendships that will last a lifetime, he said.

The UJ Student Senate approved the final plans for the Hansen Center and JHouse, said Meredith Mutch, previous president. Student feedback showed a demand for a game room but mostly just a lot of space that is designed to hang out, along with gym space for a basketball or floor hockey game, she said.

"Having another location for study groups will be very convenient, especially during big weeks, like midterm and finals," Mutch said.