Construction Tour: John Saleh Catholic Student Center
On May 11, 1935, the late archbishop of San Antonio, Robert Lucey, initiated the second Catholic church in Lubbock. Lucey presided the dedication of the St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church located in the area of Texas Technical College (now Texas Tech University) on March 29, 1936. Today, St. Elizabeth’s also serves as the University Parish. The existing student center was built in 1983. Since then, minor upgrades have been made to the facility.
Aaron Rivera, AIA, member of PSC’s community sector, said the leadership at St. Elizabeth’s saw the need for a new student center with the growing Texas Tech student population. He said the existing student center is 2,100 square feet, and the new building is 19,000 square feet with a 7,200-square-foot multipurpose building. This space also includes a 1,000-square-foot student organization space, office spaces, a commercial kitchen and a media center with group study room.
“As we started laying out the needs of each organization and the ability to rent out the facility as the owners wanted, it became clear that it would be a tough task,” Aaron said. “So we started looking at relationships of each space and looked at spaces that could overlap.”
Kreg Robertson, AIA, member of PSC’s community sector, said that John Saleh of Lubbock willed $4 million to the church to build the student center. This church is home to Raider Catholic Student Ministries which is the second largest campus ministry program in Texas. This ministry serves more than nine different student organizations including Chi Rho, Women of Faith and Raider Awakening.
Kreg said that each space in the new building was designed to serve multiple purposes so that the building can be used throughout the entire week instead of just for Sunday and Wednesday. Study areas, conference rooms, and seminar spaces double as classroom space for Sunday school. He also said since the location is across from the historic chapel, the space could be used for wedding receptions as well as rented out for parties, banquets, and quinceañeras.
“For a building of 18,800 square feet, there is a lot going on,” Kreg said. “The amount of different spaces and different functions is on par with a stand-alone church: worship, admin, education, kitchen, productions, banquets, meeting, conferences, and tailgating.”
Fulfilling the needs of a growing religious community was one goal, but Aaron said another intention was preserving the history of St. Elizabeth’s church with a modern design.
“The concern early on was that the new student center looked too much like a church building than a student center,” Aaron said. “By opening up the Northwest side of the building with glass overlooking the patio, it developed a more modern twist to a traditional building that worked really well.
“On the interior, we again tied some traditional elements with a modern twist to not only honor the past of St. Elizabeth’s but celebrates the future and the students who would enjoy this building for decades to come.”
Greg Ramzinski, previous director of campus ministry, said the design process was accomplished over several months. He said he thinks the space will satisfy all needs for the current and future students of St. Elizabeth’s with the space for ministry as well as meetings and social events.
“This project is unique because of the amount of input in the design of the building we obtained,” Greg said. “PSC did a wonderful job in guiding us by recommending gathering a variety of groups of people to have input in the overall design of the facility.”
Keegan Charanza, previous PSC marketing coordinator, said since she was actively involved with the student center during her attendance at Tech, she was asked for her ideas during the concept and design process. She said she has enjoyed this unique relationship between her workplace and church.
“I’ve never contributed to project in that way, so it was a new and fun experience to feel like I had something to do with the design concept of the project,” she said.
The Catholic student center project has been underway since July 2015 and was officially opened in the fall of 2018. A scripture and wall signing event was May 7, 2017, at the site of the new student center. This was an opportunity for church members to see the facility’s progress and to write a prayer, scripture or sign their names on the walls of the new facility to commemorate their thanks and excitement.
“This building is going to be special,” Aaron said, “because we designed it for St. Elizabeth’s and their student organizations to make an impact on the Tech campus. They will be the light that will make this place special.”