Contest Hoped To Bring NU Back To Norris Game Room

Libby Nelson

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By Libby NelsonThe Daily Northwestern

Until 2002, the Norris University Center Game Room rarely lacked a crowd.

But when Norris went cigarette-free that year, the students cleared out with the smoke. Now, in hopes of attracting more students to the facility, Norris is sponsoring a contest to give the Game Room a new name and offering a 30-gigabyte iPod for the winner.

The contest is the latest attempt to market the Game Room and make students aware that it even exists.

Because it’s located in the basement of Norris, underneath Willie’s Food Court, many students don’t even know the room is there, said Norris assistant director Debra Blade.

“No one I know ever comes here,” said Weinberg junior Lee Linderman, a Norris employee. “It’s inconvenient, and it’s not like it has a bowling alley. You can find these amenities in most dorms.”

Blade and game attendant Andrew Davis, a SESP senior, said the room does a good job of drawing students for special events, but a poor job overall of attracting student customers.

This wasn’t always the case, Blade said. Smoking was permitted in the Game Room until summer 2002, and students came to smoke while playing billiards and hanging out with friends.

The room was one of the few places students could smoke inside Norris or on campus.

“The Game Room sort of lost its way when the building went smoke-free,” Blade said. “A lot of people have pool tables, and there are a lot of places (students) can go.”

This year, though, the Game Room has added wireless Internet and a computer lab, at least temporarily. Construction of the first-floor Starbucks displaced the computer lab to the Game Room, where it will stay until the coffee chain opens.

The computers give students a chance to check e-mail and do homework in the Game Room and might remain even after the coffeshop is completed, Davis said.

“Some people like to do work in a setting with a commotion going on,” Davis said.

Blade and Davis both said that the room attracts non-students as well, both Chicago-area residents and prospective students who stop in after touring campus.

Friday and Saturday nights are busier, not just with NU students, but with Chicago residents who come for the room’s low prices, Davis said.

The goal is to attract committed student customers who will come to the game room on a regular basis – not just for special events. Davis said he hoped a nickname for the room would help.

Linderman said he thinks the Starbucks renovation will be a bigger draw.

“It’s the underground of a place that’s very out of the way,” he said. “A name will draw attention to it for a couple of weeks and then people will go away again. But more people coming to Norris will mean more people coming to the Game Room.”

Blade said the contest has about 100 entries so far.

And the game room is changing more than its name this fall. A 58-inch, plasma-screen TV is on its way. Once it arrives, staff will order Xbox game systems and host a Madden Football tournament.

But whether it draws students for homework, Xbox or billiards, Blade said the main goal is just getting people to show up.

“We want students to take back the space, to reclaim it, to make it their own,” Blade said.

Reach Libby Nelson at libbynelson@northwestern.edu.

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