'The living room of campus': Culp Center back open, will hold official opening March 2-6

Jonathan Roberts • Feb 24, 2020 at 8:22 PM

Two years and about $45 million later, East Tennessee State University’s D.P. Culp University Center is back open — a welcome return to normalcy for many ETSU students.

“I was here when the Culp Center was (closed) and looking at this right now, compared to what was before, it’s so marvelous,” said junior Christopher Ogbenna. “I’m just excited, it was worth the time.”

The renovations, which added more than 20,000 square feet of space to the 40-plus-year-old building, are not fully completed, but are expected to remain at or under the university’s budget of $45.5 million.

“We’ve had great success keeping this on budget and that contingency money is being used to help pay for some additional renovations we didn’t think we’d be able to do,” said Leah Adonolfi, ETSU’s associate dean for student engagement. “It really is a ‘wow,’ you walk in and you really can’t believe you’re in the same building.”

Adonolfi said that the cave, ballroom, student media center and other offices still need to be completed, but estimated most of the construction “will be done before school starts in the fall.”

“This is just phase one, and we have quite a bit still actually happening in the building,” she said. “There’s still a lot left to do.”

Still, that didn’t stop students from enjoying the new space — particularly when it came to the new dining options on the lower level, which include Chick-Fil-A, Steak and Shake and Mein Bowl.

“It’s really nice, they really outdid themselves,” said Jaonia Settles. “The older one was more high school-ish, and this one feels more like a college so it’s pretty nice.”

Adonolfi called the Culp Center “the living room” of campus, and said they’ve been looking forward to the building’s reopening for “quite some time.”

“We’re excited because it means campus life is going to sort of get back to normal for us,” Adonolfi said.

The center will hold grand opening ceremonies next week, and will offer public tours twice a day from March 2-6. To register for a tour, find more information or see an activities calendar, visit https://www.etsu.edu/students/univcent/information/eventschedule.php.

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