The campus at the University of California at Merced seems tranquil now that opening day is over and students have settled in.
There are signs of student life everywhere — from the messages written on dorm-room windows and the almost full parking lots to the empty St. Pauli Girl beer bottle recently seen lying among the cedar chips that line a planting bed.
But don't let the calm fool you.
Construction hasn't stopped, and the farther east you go on campus, the more likely it is you'll hear the sounds of saws and hammers.
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Add to that the sound of heavy equipment breaking ground recently on the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center, the latest phase of construction on the new campus.
The 35,000 square-foot gym complex will house an NCAA-regulation-sized basketball court, called the Greg and Cathie Hostetler Court, named after a Merced-area developer and campus donor.
Once the building is finished in late 2006, students will have access not only to the courts, but also to a cardio and weight room, a Student Health Center and a multipurpose room for group exercise classes.
University planners say the gym also will be able to hold small to mid-sized productions, such as commencement ceremonies, graduations and perhaps some plays.
For bigger productions, such as concerts, the Classroom Building, scheduled to open in January, will contain the Lakireddy Auditorium.
Vice Chancellor for Administration Lindsay Desrochers said the campus construction is coming along on schedule — for the most part.
Several buildings delayed
The Lantern, a four-story building between the two wings of the library, was supposed to be ready by opening day but is just being finished this fall. There remains a lot of scaffolding on the outside, Desrochers said, but the inside is nearly ready. In the last few weeks before opening, workers had to make sure the necessities were done for the inaugural class's arrival, so areas like The Lantern didn't get as much attention.
Desrochers, who has overseen campus construction for the past three years, said the glassed-in Lantern should be finished by the end of this month.
The first floor is an open plaza between the library's blue and gold wings. The second floor will have a reading room with sofas and chairs, and the third floor will house book checkout and information services. The fourth floor, which will need only a little finishing work by the time the other floors open, will house the McFadden Reading Room and will include meeting areas.
The Lantern gives the effect of a "big atrium," Desrochers said.
The campus bookstore also was supposed to be open for the start of the fall semester but wasn't ready. A makeshift bookstore is in the library and has worked out fine, but the real store easily will be ready for the spring semester, Desrochers said.
In addition to the Lantern and Classroom Building, the Science and Engineering Building is scheduled to open in January, with room for classes, and faculty and staff offices.
Campus quad in the works
The campus is in the bidding process for work on the quad, a large, parklike area in front of the Science and Engineering Building that will be mostly grass, crisscrossed by sidewalks and lined with trees. Though the grass and sidewalks can be set, there are other parts of the quad for which the college hasn't settled on a contractor, so it's unlikely it will be finished before spring, Desrochers said.
Near the campus's Central Plant, the Logistics and Services Building also is being finished. It will house the campus police department, some operations staff members, and the environmental health and safety staff.
Desrochers, who is moving to Portland, Ore., with her husband at the end of the month, said it's hard to leave the campus into which she has invested so much time and effort. No permanent replacement has been named, but she said there are plenty of capable people to take over in her absence.
She said she would have liked to see all the work finished before she left, but with a 20-year build-out plan, that's not possible.
"The joy for me is knowing we have a campus," she said. "I don't look at it in the short term."
Bee staff writer Lorena Anderson can be reached at 667-1227 or email@example.com.