Vacant Newman dorm getting new life

By Matthew Fowler, A&E Editor

A vacant dorm on the south side of Newman’s campus is about to get new life.

Merlini Hall, which sits near the southwest corner of campus between the Mabee Dining Center and Beata Hall, hasn’t had full-time residents since 2018, when the school decided that, to save money, it would close the hall — the oldest on campus.

But it’s now getting new use, as Newman’s soccer team is retrofitting a section into a functional locker room. It may be used for other purposes in the future.

The building’s construction began in 1966, and it was used as a residence hall for the Sacred Heart College (later renamed Newman University.)

The building has undergone several different uses since its original purpose as a dormitory. Currently, the predominant use for Merlini is storage of educational equipment and materials. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Merlini Hall briefly returned to housing students from Newman University, said Director of Residence Life Ian Lecki.

“When COVID was running rampant, it was used as a COVID wing so students did not have to be sent home or placed in their rooms if they had a roommate,” Lecki said. “They could go there and not have to wear a mask all the time, and food was delivered to them, which made living in quarantine a little bit easier.”

Lecki also said that work is now in progress to transform part of the building into a locker room for the Newman soccer team.

“We actually cleaned out the entire first floor left wing,” Lecki said. “Coach (Dylan) Gruntzel and Coach Victor (Domingues) and their assistants have been working diligently to try and get lockers built and make it nice for the soccer players as we do not currently have a locker room for the outdoor sports.”

There are no definite long-term plans for Merlini Hall, although returning the building to a residence hall has been brought up as a  possible solution to room shortages caused by potential student population growth.

“We have a good problem on our hands, and the problem is that we are probably going to be running out of rooms, if not next year, the year after,” Lecki said. “Students are really wanting to come back on campus, and the effects of COVID are dying down, so a lot of students are wanting to get back on campus and experience the campus life.”

PHOTO: Matthew Fowler, A&E Editor