Huskies Den may serve alcohol after renovations

Above is a rendering of the Huskies Den after the proposed renovations have been completed. The renovation would include a staircase to the Black Hawk Cafe and a sports grill. 

DeKALB — The Huskies Den will be adding a sports grill and staircase connected to the BlackHawk Cafe if the Board of Trustees approves renovation plans during a Thursday meeting.

The proposed renovations to the Huskies Den are not yet approved, but the entire project is moving toward developing construction documents.

The additions to the Huskies Den are a few of the renovations projects included in the Holmes Student Center revamp. Officials anticipate construction starting in summer or fall of 2018 and reaching completion before fall of 2019.

“Our design consultants are working on [developing construction documents],” said project architect Belinda Roller. “We’re working through that with them, so they are basically preparing drawings that will be used for soliciting bids from contractors.”

Roller said she believes the Huskies Den is one of the centerpieces of the Holmes Student Center renovation.

“We’re really talking about connecting what is the Blackhawk annex with the space below and really making that space flow together, almost like a two-tiered programming space,” said Ian Crone, Holmes Student Center director.

The new sports grill, which is being referred to as the Huskies Grille, will potentially serve alcoholic beverages.

“Rest assured that it’s something that we want to do due diligence in terms of considering it as an option and also determining community need for it,” Crone said.

Crone said officials want to be thoughtful in considering the extent to which the presence of alcohol in the space would “promote and enhance community” while also taking into consideration the students who are not yet 21.

Additionally, the renovation would incorporate an increase in stage performance space. The Huskies Den’s current stage is portable, but the floor plan drafts show a large, permanent stage to stretch across the wall where it currently lays.

The Holmes Student Center renovations will eliminate Diversions, a theater and performing arts space. Although the space won’t be replaced in the Huskies Den, the larger stage will make up for some of the loss, said Huskies Den Manager Jeffry Royce.

The $20 million student center renovation, including that of the Huskies Den, is being funded through Build America Bonds NIU received in 2014. Build America Bonds must be used for construction projects for new structures or renovations, according to the Holmes Student Center renovations website.

Attracting Students

Some of the goals of the renovations are to attract more students to spend time in the Holmes Student Center and leave an impression on students considering attending NIU.

Aside from the larger pieces of this project, the renovations will also focus on the more cosmetic aspects of the building, like applying fresh paint to walls and modernizing the appearance.

“With students that are trying to figure out which university to go to, the student unions and student centers are usually a big orientation stop, and they really do base some of those decisions off of cosmetic appearances,” Royce said.

Crone said the student center is heavily funded by student fees, so he wants it to be a place to which students gravitate and alumni want to return.

The cosmetic appearances of the building are important in terms of modernizing the space, as it has not seen a major upgrade since being built in 1962.

During the construction period, different areas of the Holmes Student Center will be temporarily closed, but project workers are doing what they can to strategically plan the construction and minimize student impact.

“We’re doing what we can, trying to minimize the impact on students, of course realizing that it is a large construction project, so there will be some inconvenience,” Roller said.

Although the project will produce inconvenience, Roller said it is important to keep in mind the end result of the renovations and what will be a product of the construction.

“It’ll definitely seem like a new venue that capitalizes off the uniqueness and kind of the old vibe of the old space,” Crone said.