Macalester opens new lounge, The Loch
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Macalester opens new lounge, The Loch

For weeks, the lower level of the Campus Center has been under serious construction. Students venturing into the area to check their SPOs may have heard loud noises coming from behind big sheets of white plastic. Now as construction comes to end, the Loch at Macalester, the reimagined student lounge, will open with a grand opening celebration on Tuesday, April 16 at noon.

The Loch was designed to address what students felt was missing on campus. It will include various features not available in the old lounge. Mark Bechtel, Campus Center Operations Manager, who has been actively involved in the planning since he came to Macalester in November, said that he could not pick just one favorite aspect.

“There is the wavy wall with color-changing lights, the back area with two TVs and two gaming systems, and the back glass wall which really makes the whole space feel more open,” he said.

A significant addition to the new space is a Bon Appetit food bar that will sell pizza, Izzy’s ice cream, bottled drinks and various grab-and-go items. It will function similarly to the Atrium Market and Scotty’s, and will be open weekdays 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. during the academic year. The lounge itself will be open all hours that the Campus Center is open. The beloved free popcorn will still be available in the lounge as well.

Campus Center Director Cindy Haarstad said that she is very excited that the lounge is finally ready to go.

“One of the intents in the design of the space was to be able to have it be visible,” she said. “I can envision students groups meeting here—not, like, reserving a space but gathering, whether it’s a formal meeting or just informal discussions.”

The Loch will expand on the purpose of the lounge as a hangout space for students to include a raised stage for student performances. The stage includes lighting and sound in the open space. According to Haarstad, student groups will be able to reserve the stage for performances with the understanding that the event must be open to everyone.

“The thing that I am most excited about is having a permanent and dedicated space for student performance,” said Will Johnson ’13. “The lounge stage will be a great place for student band shows, poetry slams and org showcases.

It will be large enough to have a good crowd but not feel empty and cavernous like Kagin and MGO. And it will look, feel, and sound a lot nicer than 10k.”

Johnson, along with Kyle Rosenberg ’13, worked with staff members and the project’s architects to help shape the vision of the new lounge.

“[We] weren’t privy to a lot of information regarding the budget and feasibility of some of the things we suggested,” Johnson said. “Some of the things we had pushed for had to be cut back once the group had the budget finalized.”

He also noted, however, that the staff and architects seemed to value what they had to say and took it into serious consideration while planning.

Additional seating and a Minnesota theme were two aspects that the planners were careful to include in the layout. The Loch has movable tables and chairs and various couches and armchairs in the main part of the lounge in front of the glass walls. In addition, there are more secluded booths around the corner. There will also be up to two pool tables adjacent to the booth seating. The design of the lounge is meant to represent the vibrancy of Minnesota’s distinct four seasons in various locations in the state. For example, the booth area represents spring in the prairie and farmland, and the food area represents summer at Minnesota’s many lakes.

Rachel Perry ‘15 is a Campus Center building manager and has been involved in a student committee that worked with Bechtel to provide planning feedback and plan events for the Loch. She expressed excitement at the way that video games would be incorporated into the new space.

“Personally, I’m really happy about the new video-gaming area,” she said. “It’s closed off by a glass door so all the noise from the games and the players will be isolated from the music and activities in the rest of the lounge.”

“After the grand opening, we’ll be doing a series of programming each night in the lounge to try to get people to come down and utilize the lounge and show some of its capacities,” Haarstad said.

“It’s going to be a really fun week down there,” Perry said. “[We] intend to have some fun events with DJs, performances by some of the on-campus music groups and a few events everyone can get involved in.”

There is long-term programming planned for the newly-constructed Loch. The Study Sundays that took place in the old lounge will continue, and through the projector above the stage area, there will be showings of popular television programs and sporting events like Monday Night Football.

The new name, the Loch, was decided early in the planning process. It was meant to be unique, yet suitable for Macalester.

“We wanted to have an original name for this space, since most other student spaces on campus are named after people,” Bechtel said. “The name is a clear reference to Mac’s Scottish roots, keeping with the theme of the Highlander, which was there before.”

According to Haarstad, funding for the extensive construction came from accumulated college reserves. It was net income money from previous years.

“It’s not student fee dollars,” Haarstad said. “It’s college funding.”

The students and staff involved in creating the new Loch expressed a general sentiment of excitement.

“The Loch is a very modern space, meant to be a place for students to get away from the stresses of college life, and enjoy themselves,” Bechtel said.

Haarstad said that she enjoys hearing students comment on the space as they pass through the lower level of the Campus Center.

“I am so excited, because I think students are excited, and that’s what this space is about,” she said. “It’s been such a fun process. It’s been fast but it’s been super fun.”

Editor’s note: Kyle Rosenberg ’13 is the web and design editor of The Mac Weekly.

April 12, 2013

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