If the signs around campus look a little crisper, the paint looks a little richer, and the monuments look a little more monumental, thank the debate.
Like a family the week before houseguests arrive, UNLV facilities teams have been sprucing up the campus before the Oct. 19 Presidential Debate. It marks the first big push in campus improvements since the Great Recession-era budget cuts.
Special Projects Director Kyle Kaalberg, who is heading several debate-related committees, said there’s been a lot of “working across campus departments to get things done, and we’ve been able to accomplish things well beyond what we were hoping.”
Priorities were identified through debate committee surveys and feedback. The key areas were in interior and exterior signage, campus entrances, and wayfinding.
That last one was crucial with more than 5,000 media members expected to converge on UNLV during the debate. Temporary signage will be installed to point toward major buildings on campus, while the UNLV app is being upgraded with enhanced features to help visitors find their way round. “Ask me!” booths, a staple during the start of every semester, will also be in place.
The added signage will serve as a backdrop for media cameras and visitors identify exactly where there are. But, Kaalberg noted, as you start seeing banners popping up on lampposts or gobo lights projecting the debate logo onto Greenspun Hall or the Stan Fulton Building, know that there’s a purpose beyond the debate at play.
“These improvements are important for student life,” Kaalberg said. “It shows pride in who we are as a university and that pride is contagious. The more you see that, the more you feel it.”
In the debate hall at the Thomas & Mack Center, the made-for-tv event coincides with the end of a two-year modernization and expansion project that included things like a new distributed antenna system to improve cell service, new seats, and improvements to the heating and air conditioning system.
In addition, Thomas & Mack Executive Director Mike Newcomb said the debate prompted moving up the schedule for some maintenance activities. The exterior lettering was refreshed and the scarlet façade that wraps around the building was repainted, something that typically only happens every 15 years.
Landscaping was spruced up and a light pole at the front of the building was removed to give a clear view of the Thomas & Mack for any establishing shots the TV cameras might want to make — both now and in the future.
When Executive Director of Facilities Allan Breese arrived on campus in the spring semester, he brought fresh perspective and started making his plans. Fortunately, the work that needed to be done coincided with the start of fall semester and the ramp-up to the debate. He moved quickly to ensure the university would have undeniable curb appeal, and his team will be working full-tilt up until debate day.
"After all, any debate-related work is on top of our normal university responsibilities," he said.
As the university moves beyond the debate, his crew will continue with needs identified by UNLV’s Top Tier initiative. They have already begun repainting some of the utility carts to match the school colors, and facilities employees have started replacing their standard blue uniforms with new scarlet and gray ones. Between debate-related projects and Top Tier goals, the whole picture comes together to show lasting improvements to campus.
"The debate is a great opportunity for UNLV and the community,” Breese said. “I see a lot of positive improvements to the campus. The facilities team will be working right through the debate; and I challenge the team to accomplish more than just the list."