Tunneling Under the Zoo

By Kamalaldin Kamalaldin

The deep tunnel under Hoben Hall. Photo by Megan Rigney

As a Kalamazoo College student, you may have dreamt of evading the cold Michigan winters and taking refuge by walking to class in underground tunnels. Well, many K students ponder the existence of a tunnel connecting Harmon and Hoben, but have found no evidence.

Although there is some truth to that mystery, the real answer to those ruminations may disappoint.

“There is a utility tunnel (connecting Harmon and Hoben),” said Paul Manstrom, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management. “But it is packed with steam, condensate, heating and plumbing pipes, plus conduit for electrical and computer network cables.”

Although the tunnel runs continuously between the two dorms, “there is a wall of concrete and brick with the pipes passing through a small pipe chase,” Manstrom said.

Another tunnel lies under Academy Street. It starts from the stairs coming down from the patio of Anderson Athletic Center and proceeds just past the drive in red square.

Using tunnels to navigate a campus is not a foreign concept.

Nazareth College, a formerly Catholic college that was in the Kalamazoo area, had underground tunnels for the students to pass through. That idea was so renowned that the college’s mascot was a mole.

“We don’t have anything…like Michigan State (University) where you can walk from building (to building using tunnels),” Manstrom said.

However, the lack of such facilities was not simply ignored by K. The school’s board discussed the possibility of constructing such a project someday.

“We have talked about both tunnels and pedestrian bridges to connect some of the new buildings,” Manstrom said. Connections between the natatorium, the new athletic center, and Anderson Athletic Center were the main focus, he added.

However, various obstacles impede the path to such luxuries.

“You are talking in the millions of dollars to get across the street,” Manstrom said. “It would be a nice feature to have but there would be (several) issues we would have to resolve with the city (first).”

The lack of real walking tunnels has not stopped K students from exploring the thrill of the underground.

“Through the years, we have had a number of incidents where students would try to get in to the tunnels because of the mysteries,” Manstrom said.

“Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ was a popular game,” Manstrom recalled. “That was the fascination behind people thinking we had a maze of tunnels.”

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