Students walking through the Sports and Health Center may notice the absence of the old maroon sectional seating that had been in the Romano Lobby since 1987. New modern furniture and tables now occupy that space in what Mick McComber, director of RSOP, hopes to become a living-learning space.
“A number of years ago there was a group at UMD that got together,” McComber said, “and we worked together on learning outcomes and looking at what successful institutions do, and part of that conversation was the physical makeup of the university. What we found was that what we were really lacking and what students desired are kind of what we refer to as living-learning spaces.”
McComber compared the lobby area to the space that looks over the hockey rink in the Sports and Health Center. That space used to have white tiles, bright white lights and metal bleachers, according to McComber. Now, it is an area that students can socialize, rearrange furniture and do school work comfortably.
A gift from BlueStone developer Mark Lambert was the enabling force that allowed UMD to purchase the furniture. Lambert had no specific goal in mind as to where the money would go, just that the gift was to be put towards UMD students’ benefit.
McComber said that the facility was showing its age and because Romano Gym is not only host to sporting events but also community events like musical acts and speakers, the decision was made to update the lobby.
“The thought was, why not do something to dress up the front of that Romano space — the Sports and Health Center entry — with the intent that certainly it’s going to improve the game-day experience, whether it’s community or students that are here,” McComber said. “But it creates more of that up-to-date living-learning kind of space.”
“I think that it’s a lot more welcoming and open,” Hannah Olson, a junior who was sitting on the new chairs, said. “It just looks nicer and it’s more presentable.”
Olson, a member of the track team, said she would often rest on the sectional seating and that the only drawback to the new furniture is that there is nowhere to lie down and rest.
“That’s a high traffic area not only during the day with students, many of whom are student-athletes, but non-athletes as well,” McComber added, “but also an important entry point for community that come in.”
Sami Schnyder, a junior on the softball team, didn’t use the sectional couches in the past, but said she likes the new layout and furniture of the lobby.
“I like it a lot better,” Schnyder said. “I especially really like the tables because it gives a good place to actually do work.”
Changes to the Romano Lobby don’t end at the furniture. McComber said that there are also plans to paint a mural on the wall outside of the gym.
“The idea is to have an artist craft something that celebrates the Bulldogs sports and activities that go on within that gym,” McComber said. “You know, kind of the legacy and that type of thing.”
BY SAM STROM News Reporter