Posted at 11:29 a.m., Dec. 3, 2014

MainCampusNewBulding

Make way for new Student Center:

The green area indicates where the new Student Center will be situated. The construction of this building will eliminate more than 250 parking spaces occupying the main parking lot directly to the north of the blue arches and the dining hall.

Parking loss leads
to perdition

New Student Center to replace more than 250 parking spaces

We know the Road to Perdition. It looks like an iced-over parking lot, frigid winds gusting from the north, cars parked askew, creating their own snake-like rows, and toes gripping tightly to your shoes to prevent a slip or fall. These are the only obstacles standing in the way of getting an education when you arrive at the Laramie County Community College campus between the months of December and April.

And this is only going to get worse.

By January 2016, the new Student Center building is projected to open its doors, according to Laramie County Community College’s Building Forward website. This means students can kiss goodbye upward of 250 parking spaces, by Wingspan’s estimate. The building, estimated at $26 million and looming four stories tall, will expand 90,000 square feet into the parking lot situated in front of the current Student Services building/dining hall.

Parking already difficult

Those students who have been on campus during peak hours know parking is already difficult to come by. We have all driven in circles more than once trying to locate just one available space.

“There are never any parking spots as it is. I used to have to arrive at the campus at 7:30 a.m. just to find a spot,” said a human services major, Amber Cromwell.

Other students have also said afternoon parking is even worse, making it difficult to arrive at class on time.

Across the U.S., the three major complaints of college students are textbook prices, cafeteria food and campus parking. While parking challenges are nothing new to college campuses, LCCC’s unique location on the wind-swept High Plains sets us apart. To us at Wingspan, two issues stand out.

No overflow strategy

Unlike the University of Wyoming, LCCC was not built in the center of the community. Although parking spaces are scarce, UW has an overflow strategy. For students who cannot park near campus, off-campus parking lots and a shuttle service make the long road to class bearable and safer. The only overflow strategy LCCC has in place is a long walk through the mud. In the event the parking lot is full, students would have no option other than parking in adjacent fields where Campus Safety could ticket them.

Even if Campus Safety changes its policies and allowed parking in the fields, Mother Nature may offer her own form of perdition. Without adequate windbreaks from the Northwest winds, even a short trek across the parking lot in the winter months can be brutal. Students are faced with blistering February winds that make balancing a backpack challenging to walk upright and ground blizzards that assure any hard surface is a sheet of ice.

It makes no sense to spend millions on removing the limited parking spaces we have, especially without a replacement plan for those lost spaces.

The focus of this state-of-the-art Student Center is to become the new “front door” to the campus, with visibility of the building stretching to College Drive. It will become the new home of campus admissions, the bookstore, student records as well as financial aid and a coffee shop. Counseling and campus wellness, disability services, advising and career services will also be moved to this building. Other space will be reserved for University of Wyoming Outreach, classrooms, offices and meetings.

Current budget doesn't allow for additional parking

And parking for all these services? “Space exists for additional parking when future budgeting allows for its construction,” said Stephan Pappas, of Pappas and Pappas Architects, at the Oct. 1 LCCC Board of Trustees’ meeting.

So when exactly does LCCC have the funding for parking lots and where will they be placed? LCCC built a Health Science building but no new parking lot. The college constructed a new Residence Hall and reduced parking. It expanded the dining hall and eliminated even more parking.

Now, the trustees have approved the schematics of the new building. In their eagerness to build a new “front door,” the trustees failed to recognize our treacherous long walk.

The next step is the approval of the “design-to-build” documents that will be presented to the board in November. With no written plans to replace the proposed removal of more than 250 parking spaces, including handicap accessible spaces, Wingspan sees the future of parking on campus as teetering toward a slippery slope.

In light of the new Student Center building, Wingspan believes the Board of Trustees should seek ways to compensate for the parking spaces being removed. With parking already an issue, and to plan comprehensively for future enrollment, Wingspan encourages the board to build a parking structure with an elevated, enclosed walkway that not only replaces the 250 lost spaces but ends our road to perdition by accommodating incoming students with safe access to the college.