Ramsey Center to receive facelift after trustees approve renovation project

The renovated southwest entrance of the Ramsey Center is depicted in this rendering from the architectural firm Watson Tate Savory Inc.

The Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center at Western Carolina University will have a bold new look after the completion of an exterior renovation project endorsed Friday, Dec. 1, by the WCU Board of Trustees.

But appearance is not the reason for the project, said Joe Walker, associate vice chancellor for facilities management. The renovations are necessary to help waterproof the building, which is prone to leaks during periods of heavy rainfall, Walker said.

The Ramsey Center, characterized by large expanses of dark glass and occasionally referred to as “Darth Vader Hall” in reference to the villain from the “Star Wars” films, often incurs water damage as a result of leaks through the exterior structure, called a curtain wall. Although the exterior of the building appears to be almost entirely made of tinted windows, only portions of the glass siding actually are windows, Walker said.

Through the exterior design project, a metal panelized system will be installed utilizing the existing structure, helping to waterproof the building while also increasing its energy efficiency, he said. The metal panels, which will be designed to blend in with existing spans of brick exterior, will not be placed over the existing window space, and interior drop ceilings will be raised to increase the view-shed for those inside the building, he said.

The project also will do away with the current canopies located over entrance and exit doors, and it will allow for interchangeable signage and logos on the building facade.

Although Board of Trustees approval is not required for renovation projects of this nature, university officials wanted to seek the board’s endorsement because of the dramatic change in appearance, Walker said.

The project, with an estimated price tag of $3.9 million including design, construction and contingency, is expected to begin in May after commencement ceremonies are held in the Ramsey Center, with a tentative completion in September 2019. It will be paid for through state repair and renovation funds.

The project is expected to have no impact on building usage, although some areas and access points may be blocked off temporarily, Walker said.