Students can now relax and socialize in the new on-campus outdoor space known as The Den at Harris Field. The renovated field, located by Witherspoon Student Center, includes socially-distanced chairs, fire pits and outdoor games with hanging cafe lights encircling the field. The Den is open to students Monday-Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
According to Sarah Ketchem, the director of grounds and building services, Coca-Cola is a financial sponsor of The Den and provides games for students and a place that student workers use as a “home base” while they are working the field.
The administration discussed the idea for an outdoor gathering space over winter break due to positive feedback from students about outdoor lounging on campus during the fall, Ketchem said.
Erica Epps, the associate director of event services at NC State Student Centers, said that having an outdoor place for students to gather during this time is very important.
“I think, mainly because of physical distancing inside and just what we’ve learned about how COVID-19 is transmitted indoors versus outdoors, it’s important to have an outdoor space that supports students being able to have an in-person experience and relax and de-stress from everything that’s going on, but also supports their safety and doesn’t create a hazardous environment where the germs can be spread more easily,” Epps said.
Although the space is available for students to gather and lounge Monday-Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Epps said the use of the fire pits and games are restricted to weekend evenings. The Den is staffed by student employees Thursday-Sunday from 5-10 p.m., which is when students can use the fire pits and check out games.
Epps said some of the games that can be checked out include giant Jenga, giant checkers, cornhole, ladderball and various card and board games. Students can also purchase s’more kits from Talley Market for $3.29, which include graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate and a fire stick.
Kayla Pham, a first-year studying art and design, said she enjoys hanging out at The Den because of the social aspect and atmosphere.
“It’s a super nice way to hang out, but I think it’s an opportunity to meet people as well,” Pham said. “Sometimes they do events and games and music, and it’s really nice. I just love the lights around here. It’s a really nice atmosphere.”
Linsey Dvorin, a second-year studying nutrition science, said she is glad to have an outside place to hang out since she worries about socializing during COVID-19.
“I liked it because it’s very homey feeling,” Dvorin said. “The lights make it very welcoming. I also liked it because it’s an outside area that we could study that’s COVID-19 safe because I’m kind of COVID-19 crazy, and it’s hard to go places where there's other people and still feel safe.”
Dvorin said she hopes the administration will create more spaces like The Den for students in the future.
“I would love to see more stuff like this,” Dvorin said. “I just like how it's very spread out, but there's still a lot of people that can be here. Honestly, I don’t know of many other places that are like this. I know Talley has some places, but...the chairs are sometimes too close together...I would love to see more of it.”
Epps said students and organizations can reserve The Den or specific fire pits, but Rave! Events will accept reservations on a case-by-case basis.
“We don’t want to take the space offline for the students who live on campus and who it is intended for,” Epps said. “Prevention Services comes out and sets up some outdoor yard games from time to time as a pop-up event. Stuff like that, we’re happy to reserve out there, but we’re not currently doing, like, a restaurant reservation where you can reserve a table.”
Student organizations who want to reserve the space can submit a request through the Rave! Events website.
To learn more about The Den at Harris Field, students can visit the NC State Student Centers website. Ketchem said university administration would like to hear students’ feedback on The Den, which can be submitted through this form.