Student center at Lyon College rises from the ashes

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – In October of 2010 the Edwards Commons building burned to the ground on the Lyon College Campus. Within a couple of weeks or less the replacement building will be ready for incoming students.

The fire destroyed the schools kitchen and dining facility as well as the book store and other common areas. Students first ate at one of gymnasiums and then the former Scottish Heritage building was converted over to a dining facility.

Now the new building has risen from the ashes and the key words are "Twice is Nice" when it comes to size.

Junior Crystal Thomas told us she is really excited about the new building. "We were amazed." she said. "All the light and the tile; It's just gorgeous. I'm thrilled with the job that they did."

The footprint of the building was moved about 20 feet, so a second story could be added with minimal excavation. Size wise the new "Eds" building is about 44 Thousand square feet.  College President Dr. Don Weatherman says student input helped keep the dining hall in the building. We stood and looked out over the patio where 6 tables and umbrellas were waiting for customers. I told Dr. Weatherman about watching the umbrellas go up in flames when the building burned. Weatherman said the windows are an important feature for the dining area.

"The students love the windows behind you. " Weatherman said. "They loved the view of the lake and nature. That's why we decided to keep the dining room here in the commons."

Weatherman said that the building is already paid for. "Not from insurance." He said. "We had some very generous donations and insurance will pay about a third of the costs."

Crystal Thomas told us that her favorite part of the building is located down stairs. "I think my favorite and the general consensus is the Bistro downstairs." The small restaurant is located next to a large game and lounge area where large screen televisions will soon be installed. Also downstairs are offices and a small theater for student productions.

Upstairs there is an expanded bookstore, mail room and of course the kitchen which has also doubled in size. The kitchen staff has been doubled and that includes a full-time baker who will have display cases filled with cookies, pies and other baked goodies when school starts.

The new building really has the "big school" feeling according to Thomas. "We walked in and everyone said, "Oh we're a real college now!" Thomas looked around the lounge area, "It felt like we were on a tour of someone else's campus and then we realized it was ours."

The new freshmen class arrives on Saturday and getting the dining hall up and running was the first priority according to Dr. Weatherman. Not having a commons building has hurt enrollment a bit he said.

"Before the fire our student population had grown about 50%. After the fire it dropped about 7% for last year." Weatherman said.

Crystal says she admires the freshmen class that came last year with no commons building. "I'm thrilled for the freshmen this year getting to experience this, right off the bat."

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