By Ryan Cornell
MIDDLETOWN -- In a few weeks, students at Lord Fairfax Community College will have a new place to eat, study, exercise and socialize.
The two-story student union, which first broke ground north of the college's Science and Professions Building in November of last year, is expected to open in January by the first day of the semester.
After visits from the Frederick County fire marshal, building officials and electrical inspectors on Wednesday, the student union received its temporary certificate to occupancy.
The 32,000-square-foot complex houses a lounge, café, bookstore, fitness center, student life offices and two classrooms. Communications Specialist Leslie Kelley said the building can fit about 400 people on the first floor and 250 on the second floor.
Surrounding a fireplace on the first floor, the student lounge features an array of tables and chairs, tables for billiards and ping pong, and two 90-inch TV screens that will be used by students for video games, according to Facilities Director David Bushman.
He said the designers of the building visited facilities at other community colleges and at James Madison University before starting plans of the LFCC union.
LFCC students chose the particular components of the union through a survey, Kelley said.
"We wanted to know what they were interested in," she said. "And we listened to them."
Flanking the lounge, a café will offer food from Gourmet on the Go, which serves as the contractor running the current café.
A student bookstore, which Kelley said is three to four times larger than the current bookstore, is adjacent to the café and will sell school supplies, books and school apparel.
On the second floor, a collection of workout machines and free weights make up the fitness center, which overlooks the campus pond.
Two studios in the fitness center will be used for classes, including Zumba, pilates, yoga and aerobics. Kelley said the classes and fitness equipment are covered in an activity fee included in tuition for students, though faculty and staff would have to pay a fee for classes. She added that the school didn't have a fitness area before and had to use other gyms to hold its classes.
Noting that more than 9,700 students took classes at LFCC last year, she said the new student union will not only help recruit more students for "one of the fastest growing community colleges in Virginia," but also enrich the experience for current students.
"It gives these students a college experience in and out of the classroom," she said.
Bushman said the student union has created more jobs. He said they've already filled their fitness manager positions and are looking to hire people for three custodial positions and students in work-study positions.
People interested in applying for custodial jobs can click on the "Employment Opportunities" tab through the college's website.
Constructed by W.M. Jordan Company of Newport News, the total cost of the project was $9 million, which was acquired through loans by the LFCC Education Foundation. Kelley said the foundation has a goal to raise $3 million through donations and naming opportunities and the rest would come from commission payments from the bookstore and food vendors and rental income from the college leasing the student union from the foundation.
She applauded the contractors' work, which hjas been on schedule since construction began in January.
"We anticipated a January 2014 opening and we're going to have a January 2014 opening," she said.
According to the college's website, a second phase of the project could include basketball courts and a gymnasium.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org