Sheila Stogsdill

Special to the Grove Sun

MIAMI - A remodeling of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M’s student union building will not only provide an upscale dining hall for students but become the core of the campus, the college president said Tuesday.

The 50-year-old red-brick, single-story building is being gutted and when finished will be a state-of-the-art, multipurpose building.

“The biggest goal is to create a sense of community,” President Jeff Hale said of the student union building. “It will be the heartbeat of the campus.”

Construction of the Bruce Carter Student Union is the largest building project in the school’s 91-year history, he said. Construction started Oct. 1 and the first phase is expected to be completed in March, with the final work expected to be completed in July.

One addition to the building is a glass atrium with a fireplace that will be located at the center of the new student union. The design of the atrium will allow for lots of natural light.

The original student union was built in 1960 and has gone through minor renovations throughout the years, Hale said during a tour of the construction site Tuesday.

Construction costs are expected to run between $8.5 million and $9 million, he said.

Brock T. Eubanks, the project manager for Manhattan Construction Co., said the 42,000-square-foot building would house a dining hall, student government offices, a snack bar area, study and student conversation areas and a ballroom that can seat 425 people.

Wall murals depicting NEO’s college life painted on the ballroom walls by artist Nick Calcagno, a former art instructor, could not be salvaged.

But a rendering of the painting will be etched on six 6-foot tall plate glass panels that will greet students and guests as they enter the building.

Calcagno, a student of famed artist Charles Banks Wilson, also designed and created the 9-foot Norseman statue at the entrance to NEO’s campus.

Student body President Matt Leedy said in a statement: “I feel certain the renovations to our student union will promote a strong sense of pride among students. These improvements will enhance the campus and make NEO more cutting-edge.”

NEO’s spokeswoman Katie Sweeten said that during the construction, students are using a temporary, makeshift kitchen in Kah-Ne-You-Ah Hall, which during the 1930s served as the college’s original dining hall.