This year’s Bible Conference fundraiser will go toward an on-campus initiative to transform the Bruins Shop into a student recreation center.
Alan Benson, vice-president for student development and discipleship, said the decision to create the recreation center has been in process for months. “[This project] is intentionally taking something as important as a Bible Conference fundraiser and saying to the students that the student experience really matters,” he said.
Ian Dyke, SLC’s communications director, said the need for a space dedicated to students is not a new topic of discussion. “We’ve seen it repeatedly on USpeak, at least once a month,” he said.
Dyke said that having a recreation center is something the campus needs. “I know from previous student leadership councils it’s been true for years,” he said.
Tori Conover, women’s student body president, said she thinks the new space will build relationships and community because it will provide a fun atmosphere on campus for students to come together. “Even though a student recreation space might sound like a shallow case for a fundraiser, our vision is that relationships that are built will have a lasting impact,” she said.
Conover said that Greenville offers plenty of opportunities for recreation, but the off-campus activities often cost quite a bit of money. She thinks the new recreation center will provide a great opportunity for students to have fun on campus.
The Bruins Shop, located in a corner of The Den, will be transitioning out of its current location over the course of the spring semester to make way for the recreation center. Benson believes this location in The Den will be perfect for the recreation space. “[The Den] is ground zero of student experience,” he said. “If we’re going to make a place accessible and also fun, it needs to be here.”
Conover said that The Den’s central location and relaxed atmosphere make it a great choice for the recreation center, especially since it’s in the midst of where students already hang out. As for the look and feel of the new rec center, students will be heavily involved in the creation and design. They will also have a say in what equipment is installed.
Benson said he envisions accounting students helping with the budget, interior design students helping with the atmosphere and students even helping to choose the name of the space. As far as what will go in the rec center, the SLC will use a Google form to track feedback and will use USpeak to catalog student ideas.
They will also monitor social media to keep tabs on student opinions. “Ian and his team are really good about doing polls and asking students what they would add to [the rec center],” Conover said.
Dyke said he envisions the possible creation of a e-sports league. “There’s going to be TVs and gaming consoles,” he said. “That would pull a demographic on campus that may not have been involved in physical sports.” He said that these sports competitions could even count toward the Society of the Year award, but he’d even like to organize official leagues outside of that. Additionally, Dyke said the project champions hope to create an area for checking out equipment to use on Palmetto Green, such as lawn games, Frisbees, cornhole and more.
The rec center will be a flexible space so that it can be repurposed and tailored to serve specific event needs. “We want moveable seating so when you come in you can make it your own depending on what space we’re going for,” Dyke said. Benson also said the doors to the rec center could be closed for private society-related events, but they can also be left open to spill into the rest of The Den’s casual atmosphere.
As far as the timeline of the project is concerned, Benson said the administration’s goal is to raise the money this year, complete the project over the summer and make the rec center available for the fall semester. “It will impact the student experience as soon as possible,” he said.
Conover said the new center will help break down barriers. “We’re hoping the relationships that are built through providing a fun space for students will create relationships that will go deeper than just playing ping pong together,” she said.
The goal for this year’s Bible Conference is to raise $150,000 to go towards the on-campus initiative. Benson said they will do whatever they can with the money that comes in from the fundraiser. Because the basic structure of the rec center is already in place due to the existing Bruins Shop, the money will be used dollar-for-dollar to create the student experience.
Dyke said the students’ fundraisers will be one of the primary monetary sources for the project. “We’re hoping for a really strong response this year, especially since it’s so relevant to us and something we’ve wanted for so long,” he said.
Benson said he hopes the rec center will help students feel more at home on campus. “It’s important for you if you’re here working hard, getting an education,” he said. “Student life is a priority, and that’s where the student experience needs to happen.” Benson said that when Dr. Pettit created the vice president position, his desire was to address two primary areas of campus life: student education and student experience.
The new recreation center is one tangible way of addressing the topic of experience. Benson used the philosophy of the “third place” to explain the reasons behind creating the rec center. This philosophy holds that, in a community, the places people frequent the most are home (first place) and the workplace (second place).
The third place is an environment dedicated to socialization and information—a café, park or church, for example. Benson said that, currently, BJU offers the first and second places. “There’s a sense in which our students go to class and live in residence halls,” he said. “There’s a piece of that third place that needs to happen here. The rec area will help us capture that.”
The only other fundraiser for an on-campus project that’s been hosted in recent years went toward building the Center for Global Opportunities, which was completed in time for the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. The CGO is a space in the Alumni Building dedicated to connecting students with ministry opportunities in Greenville and across the globe.
Prior to the student center’s second-floor renovation several years ago, the BJU students had a space dedicated to socialization. The Dating Parlor, as it was called, had couches and ping pong tables available for students to spend time together on campus. However, with the rapid growth of downtown Greenville in recent years, the Dating Parlor became less frequented and students began to go off campus for activities.
Today, the need for an on-campus recreation center has resurfaced and has been recognized by both the SLC and the administration. With the installment of the new recreation center, BJU students will be able to spend more time investing in meaningful relationships. The space will give them a fresh on-campus platform for hosting activities with their discipleship groups or societies.