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Learning 'beyond the classroom walls': WKU formally dedicates The Commons

The Commons at WKU was formally dedicated on Wednesday, Aug. 31.
The Commons at WKU was formally dedicated on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

One of Western Kentucky University’s most storied buildings now serves as a modern-day space to feed the body and brain.

The Commons at Helm Library was dedicated Wednesday, the culmination of a massive construction project that began in 2019.

Dating back to 1931, the facility was home to WKU’s basketball team for three decades and later converted into a library. WKU President Timothy Caboni acknowledged the building’s history before cutting the ribbon on The Commons.

“In this very structure, generations of Hilltoppers cheered passionately for our basketball teams. Also, this space hosted countless concerts and dances for our students. And for many of our former students, they began their WKU experience as they registered for classes.”

Much of the building’s history is preserved in The Commons, including the original basketball jump circle in the middle of the main floor.

The area now offers meeting spaces, study areas, and multiple dining options. Caboni said the new amenities make the space much more than a repository for books.

“But a place where learning continues beyond the classroom walls, and where our entire community gathers over a meal, shares and shapes ideas, and celebrates the spirit of togetherness that’s so vital to the collegiate experience.”

The goal was to open the space at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, but construction was delayed by the pandemic, workforce shortages, and supply disruptions.

The Commons officially opened in April.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.