'Campus living room' clearing out

Rothwell Student Center opens its doors to the public one last time Saturday. If you're looking for a bargain, a piece of memorabilia or one last trek through RSC, the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus is where you want to be.

Rothwell Student Center
Auctioneer Brent Loberg moves tables in the basement of the Rothwell Student Center on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus on Wednesday morning. Loberg will auction off hundreds of items that were left in the building after opening the new Yellowjacket Union on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. For a sample of some of the items in the auction, check out the gallery at (Jed Carlson/

Rothwell Student Center opens its doors to the public one last time Saturday. If you're looking for a bargain, a piece of memorabilia or one last trek through RSC, the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus is where you want to be.

An auction of all the building's contents -- from cabinets and coffee cups to pastry cases and loveseats -- begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. Prospective buyers can stop by as early as 8 a.m. for a sneak peak at the items for sale.

John Robinson remembers when the site at 1605 Catlin Ave., was a recreation area.

"We used to play sandlot baseball there as kids," said Robinson, a Douglas County Supervisor.

RSC, built in 1959, was named for Angus B. Rothwell, a member of the UW-System Board of Regents from 1961-66. Additions were made in 1963 and 1967. Robinson, a UWS student at the time, remembers when it opened. The cafeteria moved from its former site, a Quonset hut, into the new building.


"We'd go over and have a cup of coffee," Robinson said. "Often times we would go to a corner and study."

Soon it became, as UWS graduate Ryan Kreuser put it, the "campus living room."

Although the building itself is slated for demolition, its impact will live on.

"I think people are going to remember other people more than the space - the fun times; the relationships that were established," said Gail Archambault, director of the new "campus living room," the Yellowjacket Union.

Kreuser, now director of residence life at UWS, agreed.

"Did I make tons of friends at RSC? Yes," he said. "Did I meet my wife for the first time at RSC? Yes."

Archambault has worked at RSC since 1981.

"I spent a lot of time in that building; all my work life," she said.


Archambault remembers gathering with other staff at "The Woodroom" bar in the basement of RSC after work. The bar was quite a draw for decades. Douglas County Board Chairman Doug Finn, who graduated from UWS in 1971, remembers it always being busy.

"It was a meeting place for people," he said, and a site of many activities. But it closed in 1994 because of lack of patrons prompted by changes in the legal drinking age. The basement also held a bowling alley at one point. Kreuser's former office was located where the alley once stood.

In the 1980s, live bands played at RSC during monthly dances. By the 1990s, entertainment on the site had shifted to comedy acts and coffeehouse-style entertainment.

RSC has been a focal point for banquets, wedding receptions and balls for decades. And the glitter from prominent guests has rubbed off on the site. President John F. Kennedy spoke at RSC during the 1960 presidential primary, as did Democratic challenger Hubert Humphrey. Finn went to see both.

"I don't remember so much what (Kennedy) spoke about," he said. But he knows Kennedy's wife, Jackie, stayed behind at the Androy Hotel because she wasn't feeling well. And it was a standing-room-only crowd.

Kennedy was reserved, Finn said, but took time to meet with people and sign autographs. Humphrey, who spoke a few weeks later, was more outgoing, slapping backs and shaking hands.

Other politicians who made appearances at UWS' student union included Walter Mondale in 1980 and Tipper Gore in 2001.

Actor Paul Newman spoke on campus -- possibly at RSC-- stumping for presidential candidate Gene McCarthy in 1968. Fellow actor Arnold Schwarzenegger attended UWS, receiving his bachelor's degree in international marketing of fitness and business administration in 1979. Prior to becoming the Terminator or governor of California, he may have strolled through RSC during campus visits.


And former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant attended a banquet at RSC in 1974, the year Superior was declared the Sports Capital of Wisconsin. Honored at the banquet were state champion Superior High School boys basketball and boys hockey teams, the Superior Bantam and PeeWee hockey teams and the national and world championship curling rink of Bud Somerville, Tom Locken, Bill Strum and Bob Nichols.

The aging building was in need of extensive renovation, however. According to UWS Spokesman Al Miller, several reconstruction and renovation options were offered, with price tags ranging from $10 million to $21 million. UWS students voted to fund a new student center instead. The $22 million Yellowjacket Union opened last month.

Once the contents are emptied Saturday, a contractor will remove interior materials. The building shell will be dismantled in March. The goal of the demolition project is to recycle 50 percent of the building materials, Miller said. When the site is cleared, it will become parking and green space.

Long after the building disappears, the memories will remain.

"Many good times were had there," Kreuser said.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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