By Marco Santana
For farmers, autumn is the season of bountiful yields.
While there aren’t fields gleaming with amber waves of grain to glean at Beacon College, students longing for an outdoor leisure space with abundant amenities received a bountiful harvest with the opening of the long-anticipated Jack Jones Oasis.
The extensive renovation has changed the vibe around The Villages Apartments by refurbishing the pool, and creating a pavilion complete with a gazebo and fire pit, while also upgrading the WI-FI connections on that part of campus.
Other updates to the venue, which sits west of North Palmetto Street, include a new enhanced basketball court and new sand volleyball courts.
“Beacon has done a great job with it,” said Lily Moran, a 24-year-old junior who says she spends parts of most days there, studying, hanging out, and people watching. “The previous version of the outdoor courtyard was less inviting, with concrete basketball courts and a modest pool. Now, more people come out here and it has a much better vibe to it.”
The Jack Jones Oasis was named after a former student who vice president of advancement and strategy Rich Killion called an “active and beloved member of the Beacon community.”
“We are proud that this incredible outdoor facility and landscape is going to be the cornerstone of that part of campus for years to come,” Killion said.
The work was possible because of support from Lisa and Juan Jones, the parents of Jack Jones, a 2022 graduate of Beacon College.
“We were incredibly fortunate to receive a significant act of generosity from the Jones family to construct this magnificent place,” Killion said. “They have been tirelessly committed to supporting the advancement of our trajectory in American higher education.”
The Jack Jones Oasis will provide what Killion called a “four-season recreational opportunity” for current and future students.
Of the 500 or so students at the school, 70 percent are involved in intramural sports.
“There has been tremendous interest (in the Oasis) by students,” he said. “Also, it has been eye-catching for people new to the community.”
At a pickup basketball game at the Oasis one recent Friday evening, 20-year-old Sydney Plant stood on edge of the court.
She has already made the women’s basketball team for Beacon College this season.
She first checked out the space on the day before school started at a luau hosted by Beacon College.
The addition of the facility serves to illustrate that the school has students’ best interests in mind, she said.
“It’s a small school for a reason but it’s nice that they let us have these athletic amenities.”
Jake Borowski, 21, agreed, as he walked off the court recently, exhausted, but smiling.
“Beacon outdid themselves,” said Borowski, who said it was night and day between the court before and after the renovations. “I want to be out here every day.”
He said the renovations could attract people to the school.
“It really does make Beacon look better,” he said. “It brings everyone together to hang out in one spot. Everyone can have an idea, but Beacon is following through and executing.”
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Horan was out in her usual spot, soaking in the sun and getting some homework done.
At the time, around 15-20 others were there alongside her.
In the past, she said she’d frequently be the only person using the previous outdoor space.
“This definitely brings the energy up,” said Horan, who studies anthrozoology. “A lot of people before were either hanging out at their apartments or at other places on or around campus.”
Aesthetic changes like a more modern basketball court and a remodeled pool may seem cosmetic.
But thanks to the updates, Horan now considers it one of her favorite sites on campus.
Perhaps more importantly, she has been able to make new friends because of the time she spends outside.
“I’m an introvert,” said Horan, whose learning difference is dyslexia and dyscalculia. “But I have met so many more people after the renovations. I have made new friends whereas before, that wasn’t the case.”
Added Horan: “This affects how I learn because it allows me to be outside.”