Though San José State University was founded in 1857, it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that colleges began expanding to fulfill students’ needs in non-academic areas. Students all across the country began to look to their universities for places to spend time, socialize, and relax, making the schools themselves responsible for the quality of campus life. San José State was no different. In 1969, the Student Union building opened to meet the demands of students needing meeting, recreation, and service space. It represented the culmination of a partnership between the Student Union, Inc. and the student body of San José State. While the student body voted in November of 1963 to pay fees to aid in the construction of a new facility focused on meeting student needs, the Student Union, Inc. sought ways to fund the construction without using any state money. The building was state-of-the-art in its day and its design and construction were heavily influenced by student feedback.
Even with all the Student Union was for the campus, the student body continued to grow and the role of the university in students’ lives continued to change. So, in 1989, with the support of the student body, construction finished on the Event Center Arena and Sport Club & Aquatic Center recreation facilities. Students could now see world-class concerts across the street from their dorms and maintain a fit lifestyle without leaving campus. Performers at the Event Center have included legendary acts, such as Santana, Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath, and Rage Against the Machine. It’s hosted visitors of all kinds, such as Bill Gates, the Dalai Lama, and Chuck Norris. And it’s been a competitive arena for everything from robots to sumo wrestlers. The Sport Club has continued to evolve to meet the continually changing fitness needs of students ever since Lou Ferrigno cut the ribbon during opening ceremonies. Just a year earlier in 1988, the Aquatic Center had opened as the largest heated outdoor pool in the Western United States. The Aquatic Center continues to be one of the premiere aquatic destinations in the country and hosts Olympians and locals every year. Generations of previous students have invested the time, energy, and money to make real all that the Student Union offers future and current students of SJSU.
These facilities have served the needs of the student community for decades. However, today’s students need even more from their university facilities. They need a place to get their morning coffee and late night snacks. They need a place to host and see events in lecture halls. They need a place to access community and student group resources. They need more campus life. The Student Union building has been operating above capacity for years. The number of students entering through the building’s doors is far greater than the facility was ever designed to handle. Even with optimized space and continual improvements to the building’s facilities, an expansion has been imminent for years. Then, a recent seismic study of the SJSU campus concluded that the Student Union building was in need of retrofitting to meet current safety codes. What better time would there be to expand the building to meet the needs of today’s student?
In 2014, the Student Union, Inc. will continue its legacy of putting students first by re-opening its doors and giving students access to a new Student Union designed to meet their need for more campus life.