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'Close-in living, short commute'
CSU's first on-campus housing facility ready to open

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Alexis Callahan and Amber Dunn are both envious and excited about the opening of Clayton State University's first student housing complex -- Laker Hall.

Callahan, 19, a sophomore from Jonesboro, and Dunn, 20, a junior from Augusta, are two of the 17 Resident Assistants (R.A.s) who moved into the newly built 451-bed facility last week.

About 420 students have signed up to live in the housing facility, and the university's Residence Life Department will open the doors Thursday, at 10 a.m., so residents can begin moving in to their suites.

Officials from the department say Laker Hall will make it easier to organize student-oriented programs, because there will be a built-in audience.

"It's going to create more of a traditional college feel," said Dunn. "There is going to be more student involvement, and more students are going to be staying on campus instead of leaving when their classes are done for the day ... Since I've been here, I have wished I could have this kind of experience, but it's better late than never, I guess."

The university will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony today, to officially open Laker Hall at 10 a.m.. The building is located at the corner of Clayton State Boulevard and North Lee Street, in Morrow. At 178,000 square feet in size, it is the largest building on Clayton State's campus.

"It's going to totally change the way of life at Clayton State -- for the better," said Callahan.

Laker Hall will be the home of several first-year students at CSU. Although there are 451 beds, some are taken up by the R.A.s, and officials from the Residence Life Department. The remaining 430 beds are available to the students.

The residents will live in fully furnished suites, each with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small kitchenette. There are two sinks in each bathroom, and each bedroom will be set up for cable television access.

A telephone will be located near the front door of the suite, allowing residents to make local phone calls.

In addition to housing first-year students, the building also has wireless internet access; several study rooms on each floor; 60 security cameras; a café; mailboxes; a game room with a large-screen, high-definition television, a pool table and a ping pong table; a front desk which is operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a laundry room. A beach volleyball court is located behind the building.

The university's Residence Life Department is also housed in Laker Hall.

Officials from the department anticipate that at least 60 percent of the new residents will arrive right away. "There is going to be a lot of students who want to get moved in right away, so they can explore more of the campus, as well as the local community," said LaToya Eff, the assistant director of operations for the Residence Life Department.

The R.A.s have spent the last week going through training workshops and creating door decorations in anticipation of the arrival of their new residents. These residents are students who will offer leadership and guidance to the other pupils who live on their respective floors.

"We know what to do to survive the freshman year in college, so we'll hopefully be able to share what we've learned with the new students," said Callahan.

The $21 million cost to build Laker Hall will be paid for through the leasing of bedrooms to students.

The CSU Foundation Real Estate I, LLC, was set up to handle the construction of the building, and is leasing Laker Hall to the university until Clayton State pays the LLC back for the entire cost of the building's construction.

Construction on Laker Hall began in August 2007, when officials from Clayton State, the University System of Georgia, and the Board of Regents gathered for a ground-breaking ceremony at the university's Spivey Hall. The site of the housing facility was little more than a large hole in the ground with construction crews laying pipes for the facility's plumbing system.

"It's really amazing to see how quickly this building has gone up over the last year," said university spokesman, John Shiffert, whose University Relations Dpartment took a tour of the facility on Monday. "That's really a testament to the people who built this facility, because it seems like we just had the groundbreaking ceremony."