JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – It’s been a year and a half since East Tennessee State University’s D.P. Culp Center closed its doors for renovations.
Students entered the building for the first time on Monday to see the transformation.
Although a tangle of construction still surrounds the building, students are able to access most of the public areas – natural light feeds into the first level, where open pathways replace the twists and turns of the old building.
A staircase doubles as a seating area in front of the food court, which includes options like Steak ‘n Shake, Chik-fil-A, Boar’s Head, Mein Bowl, Starbucks, the Bucmart and the ETSU bookstore.
Associate dean for student engagement Leah Adinolfi said the building is still awaiting some final touches, but most of the public spaces are complete.
“The Cave is sort of iconic for our institution so that will be opening later in March so probably after spring break,” she said. “That’s where gaming space will be, we’ll have pool tables, video gaming, and there’s a huge in there that we’ll have performances on and things like that so lots of things happening in the Cave after spring break.”
The media center is awaiting final updates, as well as some office spaces for academic advising and career services. She said most of the construction should be completed by the beginning of the fall semester, but any remaining construction should be completed by the end of December.
A grand staircase on the all-window side of the building will open to students next week.
The ballroom on the third floor, she added, is getting some unexpected improvements and will be one of the later projects to see completion.
“We were able, with some contingency funds, to bring in some projects like the ballroom that weren’t originally part of the project, but the ballroom is going to get a beautiful makeover,” she said.
On the second floor, the multicultural center took over the space that was occupied by Chick-fil-A and other rotating restaurants. Employees busied themselves on Tuesday setting up for an exhibition in the new space, part of a slew of events scheduled to welcome students back to the building for a grand opening next week.
Dining services on the third floor also enjoy more natural lighting and an expanded dining room. New booths and tables stretch beyond the limits of the former dining room, and the future of a patio lays in the construction pieces outside of full-length windows.
Students milled about the building Tuesday afternoon, pointing to where offices used to be or what used to take up the space now filled with navy blue couches. Adinolfi said the project is slated to reach completion on schedule and within the $45 million budget.
“We welcome everyone, the whole community, I’d love for folks to come and see what we have to offer here,” Adinolfi said. “Our dining options are wonderful, the dining hall upstairs is beautiful, there’s new outdoor seating that folks can sit outside, the patio’s not open upstairs yet, but the patio downstairs is, so come and get your Starbucks, sit out on the patio, listen to the creek, it’s beautiful.”