Although the rest of the world came to a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic, Laramie County Community College was hard at work putting the finishing touches on two big construction projects that would make a lasting impact on campus: a new residence hall and the Surbrugg Prentice Auditorium.
The residence hall will more than double the housing on campus and the SPA is the first large-scale auditorium at LCCC.
New residence hall
The new residence hall, called Gold Hall, meets a need the college has had for a while. In past years, the demand for on-campus housing outpaced the number of spaces available.
"With this hall coming online, this is the first semester we haven't had to turn students away who wanted on-campus housing," said Diana Newman, director of residence hall living.
Gold Hall not only more than doubles the number of beds on campus, it does it in style. The new building anchors the west end of LCCC by pulling together a variety of amenities.
Gold Hall features kitchen and laundry areas on every floor, a self-serve market, ample study and common areas and the Merrell Student Activity Lounge, a video-game lounge; which has become a hotspot for students. These new spaces were intentionally designed to bring students together, to create community spaces and to encourage interaction between the student residents, giving the hall a "neighborhood" feel.
"The students love the lounge. Every night you’ll see students in here and a lot of them use it to study or they gather and watch TV,” Diana said.
The modern furniture and ample natural light will turn heads, but it's the sheer space of the main floor that makes the biggest first impression. The common area features multiple seating areas, a fireplace, a self-serve market and very high ceilings. But the space doesn't stop there; even in the student rooms, the ceilings are more than 10 feet tall. The design of the space, the look and feel of the building are a result of student feedback.
"When LCCC was in the planning stages, they met with a lot of students and groups to talk about what they wanted to see, and students wanted more community space," Diana said.
Gold Hall becomes the third living space on campus, providing students a variety of living arrangement options.
The new residence hall was funded by a $32.5 million low-interest loan from the State Lands and Investment Board. That loan was approved in the 2019 supplemental session, specifically to support residence hall projects on community college campuses.
Gold Hall will officially open at full capacity, along with LCCC's two other halls this fall.
The Surbrugg Prentice Auditorium
With seating for 400, the high-tech auditorium has been in the making for more than a decade, said Rick Johnson, LCCC vice president of administration and finance.
The college currently has a few larger-seating venues, but those are flat spaces and don't accommodate nearly as many people, especially in a theatrical sense.
"We didn't have anything suitable before. The idea was to have a facility to hold campus functions like commencement or an award ceremony as well as theater and musical performances," said Bill Zink, director of the LCCC physical plant.
The Surbrugg Prentice Auditorium will not only make LCCC theater productions, musical performances and speakers shine with its state of the art sound and lighting systems, it is a space for the community as well. The auditorium includes a retractable 19-foot wide by 16-foot tall screen, comprehensive rigging system to control the backstage operations and a Bravado Acoustical System concert shell to provide an enhanced acoustical setting. In addition, the SPA is the new home to the Esther and John Clay Fine Art Gallery, providing students and guest artists the opportunity to showcase artwork for the campus and the community.
Through the generous support of the Laramie County voters and their approval of a 4-year mill levy, the SPA has become a reality on the LCCC campus but is also designed to serve the community. Wanting to make opportunities for community groups and organizations, the college has put in place a process that gives members of the public an opportunity to use the facility for community productions and presentations. "We are already getting interest from the community to host events there," Rick said.
The new auditorium is named after Cheyenne community members and project supporters Dr. Robert Prentice and Dr. Sandra Surbrugg, who have been regular philanthropic figures on campus. "We were excited to participate in the community's decision to build an auditorium. The SPA will allow the college, students and community to have a unique state of the art performance and meeting space," shared Dr. Surbrugg and Dr. Prentice.
"It is one of those auditoriums that there isn't a bad seat in the house," Rick said. "It is intimate and will feel that way whether you are in the front row or the back row."