The new hub of social life at Trinity, Vernon Social, had a spectacular grand opening Saturday night as the campus community got a firsthand look at a colorful, refurbished and rejuvenated venue teeming with activity.
Several hundred students were on hand for the formal ribbon cutting on the patio entrance that kicked off more than seven hours of non-stop events. Among them were tours of the building; music by the Stanley Maxwell Band; a caricature artist in the Fireplace Lounge; a photo booth in the Meeting Room; Hookah Under the Stars on the patio; Fire Goddess belly dancing, also on the patio; comedy routines by the Hartford-based Sea Tea Improv and Trinity’s own Moveable Joints; music by the Bad Tickers Acoustic Duo; late-night food in the Fireplace Lounge; and music by Connor Proctor: DJ and Saxophone.
The schedule was put together in such a way as to show off Vernon Social’s potential in terms of enhancing the College’s social scene. If the enthusiasm of the crowd was any indication, the grand opening was a resounding success.
Over the course of the past year, what had been a large, underutilized room on Vernon Street was transformed into a multi-use facility with new eateries, large-screen TVs, bleachers, outdoor fire pits, a stage and sound system, Wi-Fi, tables and chairs both inside and out, and a convenience store for students who are bitten by a late-night case of the munchies. The building’s $4.2 million conversion had been given the green light by the College’s Board of Trustees, whose goal was to make Vernon Social the linchpin of a more robust social atmosphere on campus.
“Students have expressed the need for a neutral social space that unites the campus and [where] every student feels welcome to visit at any time, day or night,” said a report issued in October 2012 by the Charter Committee for Building Social Community at Trinity College, which was composed of trustees, faculty and students. “Vernon Social is positioned in an ideal location to fill this need – in the heart of Vernon Street – however, its current configuration is not. We seek to transform Vernon Social into a vibrant hub for student life.” The recommendations of the Charter Committee were subsequently endorsed by the trustees.
“From the very start, student input has steered the design of Vernon Social,” Sophie Bell Ayres ’77, P’12, a member of both the Board of Trustees and the Vernon Social Planning Committee, said at the opening Saturday night. “Vernon Social, along with the new Crescent Street townhouses, demonstrates Trinity’s commitment to student life.”
Working on a tight deadline, the architects, construction crews and vendors managed to put the finishing touches on Vernon Social just as the 2013-14 academic year got underway. Although some elements – such as Goldberg’s Bagels – had already opened on a limited basis, Saturday’s event marked the formal opening.
Going forward, from early morning to well after midnight, students will have an inviting and, it is hoped, exciting place to gather. At Vernon Social, they can eat, study, listen to music, warm themselves around three large outdoor fire pits or chill out with their classmates.
Among the culinary highlights are Goldberg’s, which will feature a coffee bar, breakfast food, pastries and deli sandwiches, and a new Chartwells facility offering Mexican food and a convenience store. Many students are already familiar with Goldberg’s, whose restaurant on New Britain Avenue in West Hartford has long been a popular Trinity student hangout, especially for breakfast and on weekends.
The food is “fantastic,” said Monika Pandzic ’14, who also called the newly renovated Vernon Social “a much more viable option for social settings.”
It’s also anticipated that a bar will open that would, on occasion, offer beer and wine to those over the age of 21.
The main area of the social center is about 7,000 square feet, with the convenience store adding another 1,200 square feet.
The floor plan of Vernon Social was designed by Tecton Architects, Inc. of Hartford, the exterior and landscape work was performed by Towers/Golde of New Haven, and SP3 Inc., an audio-visual consultant based in Farmington, CT, had a hand in creating the sound system and performing areas.
“Vernon Social will play a big role in completing the college experience for all of us,” said Ambar Paulino ’15, president of the Student Government Association. “This is our space.”
To see more photos from the event, click here.