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Sparky's Den set to shut down as the area undergoes construction

The renovation plans include more space and community areas for students but result in the removal of the bowling alley

Sparky’s Den located in the basement of the MU with current renovations pictured on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.
Sparky’s Den located in the basement of the MU with current renovations pictured on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.

The bowling lanes of Sparky’s Den will be used for the last time on March 2.

Located in the north side of the lower level of the Memorial Union, the space where students once went for arcade games, cosmic bowling and a place to meet with friends, is now boarded up.

Sparky’s Den is set to undergo construction at the start of spring break to add more space and gathering places for students, but the construction also results in the loss of the bowling alley.

To commemorate its time in the MU, the Programming and Activities Board has invited students and faculty to a week-long celebration which includes free billiards, bowling, food and live music from Feb. 27 to March 2.

Austen Shipley, a graduate student in the higher and post-secondary education program, is the management intern at the MU leading this event, and he is working with PAB to host Sparky's Den Farewell.

He said each day brings a new series of events including a disco night, the MU music series, a “Wildcat-free Wednesday” theme and a giveaway of some of the alley’s equipment.

“Thursday will be our big blowout, so we titled it the spring break bowl-out, kind of a play on words,” he said. “Our third music series is that day, we’re going to have food for the first 250 people, door prizes, and we’re going to be giving away bowling pins, shoes and bowling balls.”

Shipley said this series of events is necessary for the students to be able to say goodbye to a space that has served them well.

“I think Sparky’s Den is a very welcoming space, and a lot of students are sad to see it go, but overall the events will be beneficial and build morale for students,” he said.

Nyk Brunner, a freshman aerospace engineering major, said the removal of the bowling alley will upset some students more than others.

“I never really saw too many people in there at once, but it’s something I thought about doing,” he said. “I think if people are going to be upset, it’s going to be because it’s something they do a lot in their pastime.”

Michele Grab, the executive director of the MU, said in an emailed statement that the renovations of Sparky’s Den will remain a place for students to play billiards and table tennis, but it will accommodate students with more space without the alley.

“The new space will feature more areas for group meetings, additional seating, an area for mediation and reflection, a space for student media services to help students with digital media projects as well as new restrooms and an elevator for the north end of the building,” she said.

“In addition, a new staircase from the lower level up to the food court in Union Plaza will be added to better connect the lower level to the rest of the Union.”

Grab said that many students — including those in Undergraduate Student Government, Student Fee Board and Council of Coalitions — have voiced their opinions and have helped with the design of the space.

She also said while construction has already begun on the elevators and restrooms, all other services in the lower level will remain open during the construction.

Hannah Mackellar, a junior biology major, said she considered the bowling alley an entertaining aspect of the MU.

“The first time I saw the bowling alley, I thought this place is so cool. Who would have a bowling alley in their student union?” she said. “I thought that was really fun and a good way of building a community, so I think it’s definitely an asset that would be shame to lose.”

Mackellar also said she hopes the construction does not create problems for students like herself, who comes to the MU to study between classes.

“I think one thing that would annoy me is if there was a lot of noise because I would find it hard to focus,” she said. “Also if they’re blocking certain entrances, that could be an accessibility problem for some people.”

For freshman Nathan Berman, an aerospace engineering major, the side effects of construction are worth seeing the finished product.

“It kind of bothers me when it’s really high traffic hours because a lot of times there’s nowhere to sit, and I miss that space where they had a lounge,” he said. “It probably wasn’t necessary, but looking at some of the artwork that they have of it (the new space), makes me excited to see what they do.”

Berman said even with the loss of the bowling alley, he thinks students will continue to enjoy the space.

“I don’t think that many people are going to be bothered,” he said. “As long as they keep the pool tables, I think it will be fine.”

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