Center of attention: Student center receives design award

By University Communications
April 16, 2014
ACUI Facility Design Award 2014 for UW-Stout's Memorial Student Center

Photo: ACUI Facility Design Award 2014 for UW-Stout's Memorial Student Center

The Memorial Student Center at University of Wisconsin-Stout used to have dark hallways and staircases, uninviting entrances and outdated gathering spaces.

During a yearlong $19 million renovation in 2011, it was transformed into a vibrant community facility with a town square theme — four times the lounge space, open pedestrian corridors, a grand staircase, new glass-walled entrances and bright new meeting and dining areas. An amphitheater was added to the east entrance.

On Tuesday, April 8, in Orlando, Fla., the center received a 2014 Facility Design Award in the $15 to $25 million project category from the Association of College Unions International.

The award was presented to UW-Stout and Mackey Mitchell Architects of St. Louis during the ACUI Conference.

The real winners are students, faculty, staff and area residents who use the facility daily, according to Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen.

“The Memorial Student Center was completely transformed. It’s now a beautiful gathering place and one of the gems of our physical campus. It has become, as it should be, the hub of student life and social activities at UW-Stout,” Sorensen said.

“This was a job well done by everyone involved, including students, who offered input about what they wanted, and staff members, who provided the vision and saw the project through down to the final detail,” Sorensen added.

Darrin Witucki, who oversees the student center as University Centers director and who was in Orlando for the award presentation, agreed.

“The award not only focuses on the structure, but it also puts particular focus on how that structural design facilitates community development,” Witucki said.

“Our building competed with some very impressive new buildings with all the bells and whistles. The MSC was transformed into a community building, and that certainly is a major reason why it won the award,” said Witucki, the UW-Stout point person for the project.

“This is a pinnacle award for this building. It truly is an international award,” he added.

The project was in the planning stages for seven years. It involved three design committees and included direct involvement by more than 50 students. No taxpayer dollars were involved in the project, which was paid for by student fees approved by the Stout Student Association.

Repurposed, recycled and sustainable materials were used throughout the updated building. For example, dining booths, benches and study nooks were made from the bowling lanes, which were removed.

Building traffic up more than 20 percent

Since reopening, the student center has seen an increase in daily traffic, university events and special events. The center’s conference and ballroom spaces can be reserved for such things as wedding receptions, corporate events and shows.

Since the renovation:

  • Building traffic is up 21 percent, to 765,000 people a year.

  • Internal campus events are up 11 percent, with more than 9,800 event and meeting reservations a year.

  • External events are up 21 percent, with more than 300 meetings, conferences and other events a year. To schedule an event, go to

  • Daily food sales are up 25 percent. Food sales after 7 p.m. are up 63 percent, a reflection of “how the student body uses our building right up to our midnight closing time,” Witucki said, crediting University Dining Services for its role in the redesigned food service areas. New and more flexible dining spaces were created.

Mackey Mitchell Architects designed the renovated facility. The architect of record was Frisbie Architects, of River Falls. The general contractor was Market & Johnson, of Eau Claire. Consultants were Arnold & O’Sheridan, of Madison, structural; PSJ Engineering, of Madison, plumbing; Robert Rippe & Associates, of Minnetonka, Minn., food services; and Ken Saiki Design, of Madison, landscaping.

The Memorial Student Center opened in 1985, replacing a 25-year-old student center by the same name two blocks to the northwest. That facility was remodeled into the Communication Technologies Building.

UW-Stout is the first UW System school outside of Madison to receive an ACUI Facility Design Award since UW-River Falls in 2009.

For more information about the Memorial Student Center, go to