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Student Life

A Place to Socialize in a Time of Social Distancing

Campus partners have collaborated to develop The Den at Harris Field — a temporary outdoor space where the Wolfpack can safely socialize in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Den at Harris Field design schematic to show the layout of the space
This design schematic shows where fire pits, yard games, and seating areas will be when 'The Den at Harris Field' launches on Feb. 11.

As the Wolfpack community enters the spring semester with a mix of hybrid and online classes and activities, many are feeling the effects of Zoom burnout and yearning for opportunities to see their friends in person, rather than through a computer screen. That’s why on Thursday, Feb. 11, NC State is introducing a new temporary pop-up community space on Harris Field outside of Witherspoon Student Center.

“The Den at Harris Field” will be available as an outdoor lounge area with Adirondack chairs and lounge tables seven days a week from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday from 5-10 p.m. it will be staffed and attendees can check out yard games like cornhole and ladder ball as well as board games and playing cards, and ask the onsite manager to turn on the fire pits. In the weeks ahead, organizers will ask attendees to provide feedback on their experience and share any additional requests or new activity ideas.

This initiative is a collaboration between NC State Capital Projects, Grounds and Building Services, Student Centers, the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, Emergency Management and Mission Continuity, and Coca-Cola. The concept was to provide an appropriate outdoor space where students could gather in a physically distanced, yet relaxing environment. Per the university’s community standards, face coverings will be required at all times, and those who do not adhere to the rules will be required to leave. 

Image shows Harris Field before string lights and fire pits have been added
View of Harris Field shows the sand area where fire pits, Adirondack chairs, and yard games will eventually be for the launch of The Den at Harris Field on Feb. 11.

“The idea was sparked as a few of us learned about similar social areas being established at universities across the country,” said Eric Hawkes, executive director of Wellness and Recreation. “Everyone recognizes the importance of providing students with a safe place to socialize, engage and build community — which are critical to mental health and wellbeing. However, the state COVID-19 restrictions make it challenging for students to gather indoors, so the idea of creating an outdoor space seemed like a logical solution. It’s a great example of folks across campus coming together as NC State to provide a unique, safe space for students during a very difficult time.”