A vision for the heart of campus is complete with final pieces of a new plaza

From Staff Reports

A landscaped plaza featuring brick walkways, grassy lawns, a single-plume fountain and a recently constructed series of steps and platforms linking the center of Western Carolina University’s campus to Centennial Drive opened just in time for the return of students for the fall semester.

The plaza’s tiered steps flanked by planters were part of the final phase of a comprehensive effort to create a safe, pedestrian-friendly hub at the center of campus. The initiative entailed relocating a road that used to run through the middle of campus, the renovation of A.K. Hinds University Center and construction of new state-of-the-art facilities, including a recreation center that opened in 2008, dining and residence halls in 2009, and a second residence hall in 2010.

“The decision to redo the heart of campus has been one of the most significant decisions we have made to improve the quality of life for our students,” said Keith Corzine ’82, director of residential living. “The central plaza and terraced area gives a true polish to the core of campus, and we are excited to have another venue to host outdoor concerts and events. Seeing the campus core come together is the realization of a vision developed years ago to benefit students for generations to come. This changes the face of our campus forever.”

The university recently unveiled a new webcam designed to provide visitors with a “you-are-there” look at the center of campus. The camera replaces an old unit at Hinds University Center that was located behind a glass window and that produced an image often obscured by glare, especially during afternoon hours when it was pointed toward the setting sun.

The new camera, located on Balsam Residence Hall, boasts an image size about 50 percent larger than the older model, said Jed Tate ’00, WCU Web services manager. “The image has a wider aspect ratio, so we’re able to show more of the campus than before, and the camera’s panning and zooming capabilities allowed us to position a better shot,” Tate said. “That means that instead of a small view of just the Alumni Tower, viewers can see the tower, the University Center and the new fountain.” Color and brightness have improved as well, he said. “Daytime shots are much clearer, and nighttime shots don’t just go dark,” Tate said. “They can be pretty striking, actually.”

In addition to giving university website visitors a look at campus, images from the webcam frequently appear on local television newscasts and even nationally on networks such as The Weather Channel. Jason Boyer, chief meteorologist with WLOS-TV, the Asheville-based ABC affiliate, said he has seen a marked increase in the quality of images. “The improvements to the Western Carolina University webcam have been wonderful,” Boyer said. “As a meteorologist, it has certainly been an integral tool, helping me see what’s happening in that area of our mountains, and I use this webcam on a daily basis for my forecasts.”

The webcam produces a “snapshot” image that is updated every 10 seconds. Visitors to the website will need to hit the Web browser’s refresh button to see the updated image.

The webcam can be found at uccam.wcu.edu.