The following article was published on April Fools’ Day 2019:
Think the elevator is too slow? Are the stairs too crowded to navigate between classes? Next fall, Illinois State University students will have an alternative way to get around the State Farm Hall of Business.
This summer, the College of Business is launching the first phase of an atrium renovation project designed to ease congestion in the building and provide a safer, faster way of moving between floors.
Over spring break, the atrium received a thorough cleaning, which was the first step for the upcoming changes, and construction will begin the week after finals on a spiral slide stretching from the fourth level to the floor of the atrium. At the bottom of the slide there will be a spongy rubber mat to cushion users’ landings and a bench where people can recover from dizziness if necessary after riding the spiraling transport.
“Aside from a few of the tables in the atrium needing to be removed to make room for the bottom of the slide, there’s no downside to this,” observed Edwin Albertson, a communication specialist for the dean’s office. “Just because we’re a school of business doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. This addition is an excellent way to attract new students and encourage students from other colleges on campus to take a business class.”
Facilities supervisor Marshal Cuthbert explained the new atrium feature has been in the works for a long time.
“Many people will probably be surprised to learn that the slide was actually part of the building’s original blueprints. That’s why the atrium ceiling is so tall and open,” said Cuthbert. “The architect also considered installing a pneumatic tube system to transfer people from one floor to another, but there were concerns about cost and claustrophobia. We settled on the plans for the slide but had to scrap it during the initial construction due to issues at the time with building permits. We decided to come back and add it later but were further delayed by the financial crisis. Now thanks to a generous, anonymous donor we can make this dream a reality.”
Cuthbert, who plans to retire at the end of next school year, noted the atrium renovation is the most exciting project he has been a part of and is glad it will be his legacy in the building.
After receiving numerous complaints about the elevator being too slow, university administrators approved the plans to move forward with the long-awaited renovation.
The drawbacks of both the elevator and stairs are well known among those who attend class and work within the College of Business.
“The elevator takes forever,” observed senior Tanya Carlisle, who frequents the team rooms on the fourth floor. “Today I had to wait 28 seconds for it to arrive after pressing the down arrow. It’s not uncommon for it to take three times as long. Then, it takes a few seconds to start moving once I’m inside and takes forever to get all the way down to the atrium. It’s such a hassle. There are so many other things I could be doing with that minute and a half but instead I’m stuck in an elevator forever with nothing to do. I mean, there’s only so many pictures of grumpy cats or Game of Thrones memes a person can stomach in one elevator ride.”
“Walking down the stairs takes at least as long,” added junior accounting major Nathan Highsmith, “and that’s without a lot of people clogging things up before and after class. I hate getting jostled on the steps and am afraid of tripping and making a fool of myself. That fear keeps me awake at night. My grades have really suffered as a result.”
The slide will start on the top floor of the College and descend five-floors in a corkscrew fashion to the center of the atrium. An attendant will be on duty at the top of the slide to help maintain traffic flow and keep users spaced appropriately. To ensure the mode of transportation remains as rapid, slick and efficient as possible, every tenth person to use the slide will be asked to sit on a sheet of wax paper as they go down.
Additionally, a list of rules will be posted by the entrance to the slide and will include reminders to not try to walk up the slide, to clear the landing zone promptly and to remove their shoes before sliding so as to avoid scuffing up the inside of the tube unnecessarily. Students and faculty also are encouraged to dress accordingly if they plan to utilize the slide during the course of the day.
Inspired by some of the whimsical features in the City Museum in St. Louis, the slide is expected to provide stress relief for busy students and help to increase productivity by speeding up travel times within the building.
“I’m so sad I’m graduating before it’s installed,” noted Carlisle. “I’ve thought about staying an extra semester just so I can enjoy taking the slide after class every day. I think that would beat the socks off getting a real job.”
The atrium addition is just one more way ISU is going green. The giant slide will be made from recycled plastic bottles collected in bins across campus over the last decade, and its installation is expected to cut down on the College’s carbon footprint by reducing the amount of energy used to power the elevator.
Sophomore Keisha Martinez said she is excited the elevator will receive less use because she finds the noise pollution it generates to be very distracting during class time.
“Every couple of minutes it makes this annoying beep. I flinch every time it happens. I have such a hard time concentrating during my classes. How do they expect me to take notes and tests and stuff under these conditions?” she said.
Additionally, while the elevator cannot be used if the power goes out, the slide will always stand ready to convey people toward the building exits in the event of an emergency situation. The state fire marshal’s office recently released a bulletin describing an “exponential increase” in the use of playground-style slides in multi-story buildings and commended property owners for taking steps to incorporate such functional safety measures.
There are also numerous health benefits to be gained by not taking the stairs.
Tristan Grant, a 1982 ISU alum, applauded the business school for making safety a priority.
“The less time students have to carry a backpack filled with heavy books the better,” shared the physician. “If the College can cut down on travel time, students have less of a chance of developing chronic shoulder pain or scoliosis. In my professional opinion, it’s much safer for students to balance their backpacks, purses, coats, computers, shoes and other sundries in their laps while accelerating through a plastic tube then to carry all of that excess weight down so many flights of stairs.”
He also noted there is a greater likelihood of people injuring themselves when walking down stairs rather than upstairs, so it is best to remove that hazard as much as possible. As explained in a 2017 Reuters article he referenced, there is “an average rate of about 38 stair-related injuries per 10,000 U.S. residents annually, which is about 3,000 per day or one injury every 30 seconds.”
“We don’t want ISU to have anything to do with those statistics,” said Grant. “The slide is a much safer and faster option. Plus, it’s fun, and as I tell my patients, laughter is always the best medicine.”
The change also is expected to help cut down on workers’ compensation claims and cut liability insurance claims in half.
Phase two of the atrium renovation project will take place over winter break later this year and will involve installing a series of smaller slides between each floor.
“While the shorter slides will be easier to install, we’re starting with the big one because the faculty and staff on the fourth floor have suffered long enough,” said Albertson. “Every day, they’ve had to slog up flight after flight of stairs or wait and wait for the elevator. They’ve been patient, but the strain is starting to take its toll. We have to take steps to ensure their safety and boost their morale.”
Once all of the plastic transports are in place, the stairs will only be used for going up, while all down traffic can take the slides. In keeping with a suggestion from the finance department, once this one-way system is in place, the large slide will be named The Bear after quickly falling market prices, while the building’s main stairwells will be named the North Bull and South Bull in honor of a rising market.
If the system of slides is well received, administrators are considering suspending a series of rope bridges and perhaps even a zip line across the exterior courtyard to connect floors.
This emphasis on streamlining the flow of movement and increasing accessibility in the building ties in with the University’s five-year facilities plan, which also calls for installing a moving sidewalk system around the perimeter of the quad.
“We always seek to put the needs of students first,” concluded Albertson. “This is just one more way ISU is setting itself apart from the crowd.”
For more information, visit AtriumRenovation.IllinoisState.edu.