A look at SDSU’s student union throughout the years

by Amanda Guerrero

San Diego State freshmen for the 2013-14 school year will be among the first in the SDSU community to see the new student union when the building opens in the fall.

The site for the Aztec Student Union, which will replace SDSU’s former Aztec Center, has been fenced off for almost two years because of construction.


Aztec Center: circa 1968

Opened in 1968, Aztec Center was the first student union in the California State University system.

For many, Aztec Center captured the essence of campus life with an on-campus pub, a bowling alley and arcade. It also included spaces where students could host events, organize club meetings and spend free time

The decision to renovate Aztec Center partly resulted from the discovery of asbestos in the building’s ceiling and walls.

In March 2010, more than 50 percent of voting students passed the Modern Space referendum, which former SDSU President Stephen Weber approved. This paved the way for the demolition of Aztec Center to make room for the Aztec Student Union.

SDSU television, film and new media production senior Christian Pascual will graduate before the completion of the new student union.

Pascual said he usually spent his free time with friends in Montezuma Hall, playing arcade games in the bowling alley or attending meetings for student organizations hosted on the lower level.

Although Pascual supports the project, he said the construction is bittersweet.

“I understand why it has to be done,” Pascual said. “It’s just inconvenient that it has to happen while we’re here.”

Undergoing construction: Spring 2013

Construction of the Aztec Student Union began after the demolition of Aztec Center in August 2011.

Services offered at Aztec Center, such as meeting spaces and student organization offices, were relocated in temporary spaces around campus.

Associated Students marketing and communications manager Lorena Nava Ruggero said despite efforts to make accommodations for those affected by the construction, SDSU hasn’t been the same since the project began.

“I think everyone can agree that there’s something lost from not having a student union,” Ruggero said.

During a topping off ceremony that signified the placement of the highest beam on the Aztec Student Union, SDSU President Elliot Hirshman said he looks forward to having what he called “the campus living room.”

“I think this shows the kind of spirit of our campus,” Hirshman said. “It’s very exciting for the campus.”

Hirshman, who became SDSU president around the time the project began, said he is eager to experience bowling at the new Aztec Lanes.

With the building portion of the project nearing completion, selections for the dining options are underway.

Ruggero said although final decisions for the restaurants have not yet been made, the upcoming food options are sure to be high-quality.

“We’ll have good food. I think that’s safe to say at this point,” Ruggero said.


What to expect: Fall 2013

At roughly twice the size of its predecessor, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum-certified Aztec Student Union will bring services from Aztec Center back to campus, such as a bowling alley and a revamped Montezuma Hall.

New features in the three-story building will include a fitness center called the Aztec Recreation Center Express, as well as a theater.

Though the Aztec Student Union will be an addition to SDSU, parts of Aztec Center’s history live on through the new building. About 80 percent of the material from the former student union was used in the Aztec Student Union.

Ruggero said after the past few years without a student union, she thinks the entire SDSU community will welcome the building.

“When we open in the fall, it’s going to be a total change, I think, in campus culture,” Ruggero said.

Unlike the Aztec Center, the Aztec Student Union windows will be able to open allowing for ventilation throughout the building. The building will also have solar panels, radiant floors and an underground storage rainwater tank.

The project is funded entirely by a permanent $94 increase to the Student Body Center Fee each semester, which was approved as part of the Modern Space referendum. The increase, active once the Aztec Student Union opens in Fall 2013, will pay for the buildings upkeep once the construction costs are paid off.