After 15 years of dreaming, planning and building, the new 220,000-square-foot Main Campus Student Center at East Carolina University opened today.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in front of a large crowd who packed the outdoor area at the corner of 10th and Charles streets to get the first glimpse of the impressive building that many have watched transform from a large hole in the ground to a beautiful, modern building that will serve generations of students for years to come.


  • The new building replaces Mendenhall Student Center, which opened in 1974.
  • The Main Campus Student Center project includes the student center, a 720-space parking deck and chiller plant.
  • The new student center is part of the $170 million ECU Student Centers Project that includes the Health Sciences Campus Student Center, which opened in May 2017.
This center is one of the finest in the nation – if not the best."

-Chancellor Cecil Staton

Chancellor Cecil Staton welcomes Pirate Nation to the ribbon-cutting.

The center will be the beginning point for campus tours, becoming the first place that parents and prospective students visit, Chancellor Cecil Staton said during the grand-opening event.

“I predict it will be a place where the deal will be closed and students will become future Pirates," he said.

facility facts

The center features a 24-by-42 outdoor Pirate Vision digital screen.
  • Groundbreaking for the new facility was held in November 2015
  • 220,000 square feet, the equivalent of four and a half football fields
  • Cost of approximately $122 million
  • Electrochromatic glass allows windows automatically tint according to the weather.
There will be six dining options, including Panda Express, Starbucks, Creamery, Au Bon Pain Café & Bakery, a burger eatery and Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. Dining options will open by the end of January.
  • 14,000-square-foot grand ballroom that can hold 1,900 guests
  • 250-seat black box theater
  • 10,000-square-foot commons area
  • Game room with three online gaming stations and nine billiards tables.
Approximately 3,000 workers worked more than 1 million man-hours on site during the construction project.
  • Nine meeting rooms and multipurpose rooms
  • Architectural and design aspects that incorporate ECU traditions, history and branding
  • LEED certified
Trust me – our students are going to live in this space. This is a game changer. This will change the culture of our campus.”

-Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs

Hardy said it will be the first building that prospective students and parents will see. “We expect enrollment to go up because of this building,” she said.

Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs (center), joins Chancellor Cecil Staton (right) and Dr. Steve Ballard, former ECU Chancellor (left), as they cut the ribbon of ECU’s new Main Student Center on Monday, Jan. 7. Also pictured to the right of Staton are ECU Board of Trustees Chairman Kieran Shanahan, SGA President Jordan Koonts, project manager Gina Shoemaker and Board of Trustees member Leigh Fanning. Pictured to the left of Ballard are Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith, Dr. Erik Kneubuehl, associate vice chancellor, and Board of Trustees members Mark Copeland and Jason Poole.
“This is the premier student center in the country. Our students truly have a center as unique as they are — a place for every Pirate to call home.”

-Jordan Koonts, ECU’s Student Government Association president

History and Traditions

  • The history and traditions of ECU and eastern North Carolina were incorporated into many of the architectural and design elements of the new building.
  • Coins are placed throughout the floor of the building depicting the various ECU mascots and logos used over the years.
  • A large deck overlooking campus allows students to take advantage of the beautiful weather in eastern North Carolina.
  • An outline of eastern North Carolina, including the state’s lighthouses and an X that marks the spot for Greenville, adds a unique touch to the grand ballroom floor.
  • Pirate Nation will have the chance to view ECU sporting events on the Pirate Vision outdoor digital display.

Following the ribbon cutting, students, faculty, staff, administrators and guests toured the 220,000-square-foot building.

To be honest with you, when I first walked in, my breath was kind of taken away."

-Blake Proehl, communications major and Pirate wide receiver

“Driving by, it’s pretty crazy how big it is, and the modern architecture is pretty cool," Proehl said. "I feel like it’s different from a lot of the other buildings and changes the look of the campus.”

Proehl said he’s excited about the dining options and the study rooms. “Studying, for me, I kind of like to have a group around me, so the meeting rooms are really nice,” he said.

“I think the coolest thing in the building is that we have the coins with the different ECU logos through the years, so you can look for those throughout the building,” said Dorothea Mack, associate director of Greek Life, who held an “Ask A Pirate” sign and helped answer questions about the building during the grand opening.

It looks amazing. It’s way bigger than I could have ever imagined, and I can’t wait to use it. I feel like it will make students interact more with each other now that the campus has a big living room. I didn’t use Mendenhall as much, but there’s so much in here I’ll never get bored. I’ll definitely come here with my friends – eat, hang out – and study more, because it’s a nice environment to be in.”

-Logan Howell, a senior communications major

first look

“I feel like there’s a lot of open space, and I’m interested to find out what they’re going to do with that,” said Makaelyn Alston, who said she looks forward to Greek Life performances in the new building. “There’s a lot more space here; in Mendenhall we sometimes struggled to get a seat, so that should be better over here.”

“It’s very spacious, and it’s nice and organized,” said Zalena Horne, a junior majoring in education who said she expects to make more use of the new Student Center than she did Mendenhall. “It’s going to be very entertaining.”

“I love it,” Rod McClure, a sophomore from Charlotte, said about the new student center. “It’s big. I can’t wait for the new food court to open.”

Chrissy Jones, also a sophomore from Charlotte, said she also likes the new parking deck because additional parking was needed. “It’s something that doesn’t look like ECU anymore – it’s crazy,” Jones said.

Campus offices and organizations

  • Student Government Association
  • Student Activities Board
  • CULTURE Board
  • Women and Gender Office
  • Student Activities and Organizations
  • Greek Life
  • Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center
  • Ledonia Wright Cultural Center
  • Leadership & Civic Engagement
  • Central Ticket Office
  • Dowdy Student Stores
  • Central Reservations
Created By
Kristin Zachary


Photos by Cliff Hollis and Rhett Butler | Footer photo by Daniel Thomas | Video by Reed Wolfley and Rich Klindworth

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.