JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Friday marked a celebration at East Tennessee State University as the school unveiled its newest addition to students and the community.
School leaders call it the new “front door” of campus. Excitement for ETSU’s University Commons greenspace could be seen and heard on campus as it was officially opened.
“Things are coming back to life, and our campus is as well. As we open this space, as we celebrate homecoming, it’s a chance for us to look to the future and look to a world where our campus opens back up,” said ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland.
It is a transformation decades in the making with a new plaza, greenspace, amphitheater, a putting green, outdoor wireless, shuffle boards, and more. It sits right at the heart of campus, and used to be part of South Dossett Drive before the renovation.
“For the first time in about a year and a half we are able to be outside, we have a large enough space to social distance. It’s raising our spirits and our hope for the months ahead,” said ETSU COO Jeremy Ross.
Located right outside of the D.P. Culp Center, students say it is the perfect place for them to gather.
“I was really excited about it, when I came to campus it was still being renovated. I’ll be a senior next year so it’s cool to have this new space,” said Lauren Estrada, ETSU junior.
“When I first saw the space, I was pretty blown away. I heard we were getting a green space area but I did not expect it to look this great,” said Caleb Atkins, a Student Government Association member.
School leaders made sure to finish the project during pandemic closures.
“It’s been a long year. Today is in many respects the beginning of a new chapter,” said Noland.
For students, it feels like a return to normal college life.
“It feels so good to have a space to have everyone together. This year we have been so separated and distanced and finally getting to see everyone’s faces has been an encouraging experience,” said Atkins.
ETSU’s oldest residence hall overlooks its newest edition and a clock unveiled Friday in the plaza honors those with the most years of service at the school.
This marks Phase 1 of the project. Phase 2 is expected to be complete next summer, and will extend the greenspace down to the arch at ETSU’s football stadium.