SSU plans opening of new student center

ROHNERT PARK -- Sonoma State University is preparing to open the doors of a brand-new 130,000-square-foot student center on Nov. 13, offering a new hub for student activity and the largest conference and event space in Sonoma County.

Eight years in the making and two years in construction, the three-story, $62 million facility will be the latest step in a long-term transformation of the 269-acre Sonoma State. Founded like many other California State University schools as a commuter-oriented campus, Sonoma State now counts nearly half of its student population as on-campus residents.

"It's about building a community on campus," said Jessica Way, student center director. "It gives them a place to be while they're here."

With a main entrance adjacent to the school's recreation center, the facility brings together seven of the campus's eight restaurants under one roof and provides a number of centralized offices for student government and campus organizations. It also includes a number of conference rooms, available to both the university and off-campus groups.

The building will also ultimately house the campus bookstore, whose new 9,000-square-foot location will open next year, Ms. Way said.

Above those meeting spaces, common areas and restaurants is a modular third-floor space that, at its largest configuration, opens to a 12,000-square-foot "grand ballroom" with capacity for nearly 1,400 people. The conference space includes a nearby catering kitchen -- the fourth for the building.

Combined with a dining area capable of seating more than 800 people and campus housing of around 3,500 beds, Ms. Way said that the new facility was well suited to host summer conferences for groups outside of the university.

"We had been limited by the size of our dining facility until now," she said. "It's limited when you have 3,500 beds, but can't feed more than 200."

Construction of the student center is funded by a partner group that includes University Housing, Sonoma State Enterprises, Associated Students, Student Union Corporation and a $150-per-semester student fee passed in 2011. San Francisco–based architecture firm Hornberger + Worstell designed the building, with Sundt Construction serving as general contractor.

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