It’s the lunch rush. Noon to be exact. Students who probably skipped breakfast eagerly await the making of their lunches. It’s a typical sunny day on campus — above ground. But down here, the students are in a different world: studying, eating, hanging out, all while underground.
They are dining at the College of Business Café. This college is fortunate enough to have its own eatery in its very own building, known as the bunker because much of it is literally under ground that is piled up alongside it to create an underground feel.
The floors flood here when it rains. There’s an odd essence of Jurassic Park from the vines that grow on the retaining walls that ring the outer hallways. The elevator is often out of order. You’re lucky if you get cell reception anywhere in the building.
“This building is like a maze,” said Diana Reese, a staff assistant in the department of economics.
Reese has worked in the building for seven years and said she deals with students getting lost on a daily basis.
“I’ve learned the best way to help lost students is to ask them what department they’re looking for,” she said.
The College of Business building is arguably the strangest, most complex floor plan on campus. It is one of the most unusual environments, and a place where many students spend a great deal of their time. Just walking through the hallways feels as though the building is itching to tell a story.
The construction of the building was approved in 1975 and it opened in October 1979. There was a year and a half of construction delays, which almost prompted the state to threaten legal action against the general contracting firm, architects and subcontractors. The structure cost $5.1 million to build. There was a dedication ceremony that lasted three days, and included a speech by the late New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner.
The building is a three-story bunker. Two-thirds of it is underground, apparently constructed with hopes to reduce energy costs. There are no windows in the interior rooms on the first and second stories.
It has four entrances, offices, lecture halls, classrooms, a computer lab and some conventional, and unconventional, places to sit. Some of the seating looks like it has been there since the place opened.
Students can often be found sunning themselves outside on the concrete steps that sit beside grated patio furniture.
The INTO program, which offers undergraduate and graduate Pathway programs designed for international students who want to earn a degree in the U.S., is housed within the college, and has nearly 200 students. This often leads to overcrowded hallways. The students who smoke tend to congregate at the entrance of the building, which can make for an irritable, hazy descent. (USF has since banned smoking except in certain designated areas.)
A scavenger hunt is required in order to find an existing, available electrical outlet. There are display cases with trophies and plaques in them dating back to 1970.
There are square holes in the wall where pay phones used to sit.
However, where there is old, there is also new.
In 2004, the university planned to extend the building and it devised a design that would incorporate a new building without having to demolish the old. The new space would provide more offices, meetings spaces and allow a re-birth for the college and the school. Fast forward to 2010 and these plans became a reality.
The College of Business Foursquare social media application has 6,562 total check-ins, with the total people count at 875.
“Get the mocha javalanche from Java City,” said Sasha C. “These classrooms are freezing – bring a sweatshirt!” said Elizabeth S. “Watch out for gum underneath the desk thingys,” said Raffy S.
And the best one yet – “Probably the best place to go in a real or HvZ zombie apocalypse,” said Anna D.
Upon reflection, it feels as though the College of Business structure is symbolic for USF and how it has changed. It represents growth from a humble, commuter school, to a budding, competitive university. It’s fascinating to get to see this transformation in only a five-minute walk.