Kirkhof Center considered for possible renovations

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Alexandra Loyd

Grand Valley State University’s Student Senate discussed a possible expansion to the Kirkhof Center, including building upgrades and a bussing rework. Although nothing is official yet, GVSU acknowledges that there are a number of concerns raised by student organizations regarding the center’s current size and layout. 

“Right now, it’s just the beginning; it’s baby steps,” Assistant Dean for Student Life Bob Stoll said. “There’s a new provost, and we’ve got a new dean, and we’re all talking about space now. It’s really a matter of assessing what the needs of everybody are, and defining the purpose of the Kirkhof Center as a student space.”

Stoll said that the subject of space was integral to conversations about the Kirkhof Center, with a demand for more large, collaborative rooms and event spaces being explored.

“With all the activities that go on and all the programming that goes on, we’ve got a continued growth in student organizations, so we’re trying to keep up with all those programs,” Stoll said. “We don’t have any really big event spaces like ballrooms that can hold 1,200 or 1,500 people; there’s not enough room for anything big to occur in the building because it’s landlocked by the library on one side and the pond on the other, so it’s something we’re working on.”

In the past 20 years, the Kirkhof Center has had two major renovations, but GVSU knows its necessary to stay up to date with the needs of students. Stoll said that to begin this process, those involved must redefine, revisit and confirm the purpose and mission of the Kirkhof Center as a whole. 

Right now, the building’s mission is to provide students with an inclusive space to gather, create and engage through quality facilities, programs and services. To create moments that aim to enrich students’ lives, compliment them individually and enhance their academic experiences. It is GVSU’s vision to create an environment that encourages collaboration among campus groups while building a strong sense of community – and this is something GVSU must step back and reflect on often. 

There are no concrete timelines as of yet, but GVSU is in agreement with Student Senate that changes must be made to accommodate all students. 

“Right now, discussions are continuing with student leadership to define the needs within the student center,” Stoll said. “Once needs have been identified, the university can begin to work with students to develop program statements for each type of area.”

Stoll said that students’ priorities and needs are currently being defined in hopes of drawing some sort of final plan for making Kirkhof more beneficial. 

“Current needs that continue to be raised by students include more meeting and programming space, student media proximity and multimedia journalism, student veterans lounge space, small group gathering spaces, meditation and prayer space, student organizations space, food pantry needs, craft space and project rooms, to name a few (suggestions) voiced by students,” Stoll said. “For the Lanthorn, this would mean moving it closer to the television station, getting convergent multimedia outlets together.”

Although everything is only talk for now, there may also be a project with the Rapid coming sometime next summer, where the busing system switches over to include smart buses and smart bus stops. 

“The buses would be accordion style – the ones that are double linked,” Stoll said. “In order for these busses to work at Kirkhof, from my understanding, there’s a big project to redo the whole circle drive out front. This would be a federal project though, and nothing is confirmed yet.” 

For the Rapid itself, Rapid Growth reported that autonomous stability may be in the city of Grand Rapids’ future in 2019, resulting in real-time arrival applications, lower fuel emissions, reduced traffic congestion and shorter arrival times during peak hours — meaning less congestion for the GVSU connector. 

Students who have ideas or suggestions for the future of Kirkof Center are encouraged to reach out to Student Senate.