Plans to reopen Campus Center are underway after flooding and asbestos kept the 50-year-old building closed for over 18 months.
By Isaac Dektor, Managing Editor
The long-shuddered Campus Center may reopen this summer after suffering from a series of asbestos issues that left the building vacant for nearly two years, during which it was targeted by vandals and thieves.
According to Valley College President Barry Gribbons, a three-step plan to resurrect the abandoned building will likely be completed by summer. Gribbons anticipates that the entire building will have to be cleaned, after which an asbestos survey will be conducted and the basement restored — which was demolished after severe flooding.
“The whole building is being cleaned regardless of where asbestos was detected,” said Gribbons. “Once they finish cleaning the entire building, we will then be retesting the building for asbestos to confirm that there are no longer any problematic surfaces.”
While most equipment in the building is probably unaffected and still usable, Gribbons noted that surplus items being stored in the basement will likely be thrown away. Equipment containing porous fibers may absorb asbestos and need to be disposed of.
The building has been out of commission ever since a six-inch pipe burst in fall 2020, pouring out an estimated 250,000 gallons of water and flooding the basement. During an initial restoration attempt the following spring semester, maintenance workers found traces of asbestos between the tiling of the basement floor.
While Campus Center remained empty, opportunistic criminals took advantage of the situation. A vandal broke in last December, smashing windows and damaging tarps that were set up in the abatement process. The building was further vandalized in January and copper piping that connected it to an external air conditioning unit was stolen a few days later.
Campus Center was built in 1971 as part of the fourth phase of a decades-long construction plan that erected gymnasiums, Behavioral Science, Humanities and Business-Journalism buildings.
Monarch Hall, located within Campus Center was originally intended to be a music hall and features flat floor seating that makes the space versatile.
“We do not want to lose Monarch Hall because it is a community center,” said Media Arts Chair Eric Swelstad. “They do blood drives there, they do art shows, they have community meetings, candidate forums, not just for the college, but for the entire Valley Glen.”
Acquiring funds to build something like Monarch Hall is tricky due to construction costs being determined by assignable square feet, which earmarks money based on the specific programmatic uses a particular space.
The second floor of Campus Center was renovated in 2007. Classrooms were repainted and had LED lights and white boards installed, while bathrooms were refurbished. The building's roof was replaced and classrooms in the basement were repainted and furnished in 2009. A project completed in 2013 upgraded data collection infrastructure as well as adding offices for the information technology department. In 2020, a multicultural center replaced the old bookstore within Campus Center.
The multicultural center opened months before Campus Center was flooded. It was meant to house the Dream Resource Center, as well as LGBTQ+ and Puente programs.
A report that includes an estimated restoration cost will soon be made available as companies begin to bid for the contract.
“When we put out the cleaning of the whole building for bid, all of the details for cleaning the building will be contained in the request for proposal,” said Gribbons.