Campus looks into Romney Oval facelift

Romney Oval, the grassy space between Reid and Gaines Halls and Romney Gym that is commonly used by students as a quick route through campus, is undergoing review for possible renovation.

Using red, blue and gold stars at meet-and-greet events, MSU faculty, staff, students and alumni cast their votes for the future of Romney Oval.

According to Candace Mastel, MSU assistant planner, the Romney Oval Master Plan “is meant to culminate in a plan that will guide short-term and long-term redevelopment of the Romney Oval and surrounding spaces.” This includes “building entry plazas, sidewalk connections, potential new activity spaces, tree plantings and landscaping features.”

Mastel stressed that these plans are not directly associated with the current plan to remodel Romney Gym, but are part of a separate proposed project that would focus on the outdoor space as opposed to the indoor usage of the building.

In the initial stages of the plan-making process, a charrette and two initial meet-and-greets were held to gather public opinion. The MSU Facilities Planning, Design and Construction staff then worked with a consultant from CTA, Inc., an architecture and engineering firm, to formulate three plan concepts to present during public meet-and-greets before and after spring break.

According to Mastel, the campus community wanted to see three major features in the plan: an outdoor venue space for programmed events like theatre, music and movies; an outdoor classroom; and new sidewalks that address what planners call “cowpaths,” which are the visible student-made paths through the grass.

Concept A: The plan formalizes the “oval” with a new oval pathway around the entire lawn area and with trees placed in a similar pattern. Prominent, existing cowpaths would be paved. An outdoor amphitheatre would be built near Gaines Hall, with future stage space near Reid Hall and informal seating by Romney Gym.

Concept B: Similar to how the area looks today, this plan would implement a rectangular pathway around the lawn. Cowpaths would be paved and trees would be planted.

Concept C: This plan hinges on making the area more quad-like by architecturally enclosing the space with the use of trees and rectangular-based pathways. In what Mastel described as a “crisp, classical layout,” a flagpole would be in the center, with paths across the lawn.

All concepts include space for an amphitheatre and outdoor classroom.

The concept that gets the most public approval will be presented to the University Facilities Planning Board on March 26. The board can then recommend the plan for approval by President Cruzado. The approved plan will be used for long-term goals, through the implementation of small projects.

The culture of planning at MSU, according to Mastel,  has “instrumentally assisted in creating a blueprint for future improvements to the outdoor environment of the campus.”

Mastel said she envisions the space being utilized for more than it is now — largely a walkway for students between classes — so it is a useful space year round.

“We need more chilling places on campus,” Mastel said. “The college experience is better when the campus is functional and inviting.”