Bakersfield College students can expect to see more commotion on campus this spring as work begins on a few construction projects, the largest of which is a new campus center.
The college will soon break ground on a new $38 million facility that will house food services, administration, student government and other departments, as well as a large new conference center.
The college will host a groundbreaking ceremony for the center on Jan. 16, after which construction will begin. Demolition of the existing campus center started in December. The new 60,000-square-foot facility will be more than double the size of the previous campus center.
“The campus center is going to be the hub of student life,” said Kern Community College District board member Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg, a former BC administrator. “This project is really focused on students and meeting their needs.”
The center is being funded by Measure J, a $502 million bond measure that voters approved in 2016.
The campus center is just one of several projects being funded by Measure J over the next few years.
The college has already completed more than $3 million in parking lot improvements and have begun work on a new $7 million Veterans Resource Center, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
After construction work gets started on the campus center, the next project on the docket is a two-phase upgrade to the Memorial Stadium. The first phase is set to begin this spring. The entire project is expected to be completed by August 2020.
The stadium improvements include artificial turf and track replacement as well as restroom, concession stand and press box renovations.
This spring, the college will also begin installing signage at three corners of the campus to help make the college’s location more clear. Potter said this will be concrete or brick signage similar to the sign that already exists at Haley Street and Panorama Drive.
“This is really an exciting time on campus to see (these projects) come to fruition after so many years,” Gomez-Heitzeberg said. “What an amazing thing this is going to be once the buildings get done.”
In preparation for the new campus center, Maintenance and Operations Director Bill Potter said, toward the end of the fall semester the college moved the departments and services in the old campus center to the nearby Levinson Hall so that demolition work could begin. One of the biggest differences with the new center that students will notice is an improved cafeteria. Rather than one buffet-style line where students can choose from a selection of different types of food, Potter said the new cafeteria will have more of a typical food court setup.
Potter said the plan is for the various food types — such as pizza, sandwiches and salads — to have their own separate lines. Potter said there are also plans to beef up the amount of food offerings in the cafeteria so there is more variety for students.
“We’re trying to reduce wait times for our students and give them more of a variety of foods,” he said. “The kitchen that we are building in the new campus center is going to be unlike anything our students have seen on campus before. We are very excited to see it progress over the next two years.”
Potter said food services had to be moved to the Huddle, a lobby area in the gym, during the demolition and construction work.
In order to be able to prepare food, Potter said the food services department had to be moved across the street on Mt. Vernon Avenue to the former Tony’s Pizza building to use the kitchen there. It has been renamed the Mt. Vernon Commissary.
“Everything is prepared from across the street and brought over to campus,” he said.
Potter said that while cold food is being offered at the Huddle this semester, hot food will come to students through the new Gades Grub trailer.
While the new food court is likely to become one of the more immediately noticeable improvements of the new center, Potter said the new conference space is also critical.
“A conference center is something we really need on campus. There’s not enough meeting space right now,” he said. “We have so many clubs on campus. We need a network in place where we can have meetings and events.”
According to Potter, Bakersfield College currently has four conference rooms that can serve small- or medium-sized groups.
When the new campus center is completed, he said, there will be three new small rooms that can serve up to 50 people each, three large rooms for up to 100 people and one big conference room that can seat up to 500 people.
“We want to be able to provide more meeting space for our student organizations and be able to bring more community events onto campus,” Potter said.