Ross Pyka

Amber Kruger and Madeline Robertson, Staff Writers

You’ve heard of the library. You’ve probably spent countless hours of your college experience there, sitting at a computer or poring over textbooks. You’ve heard of Java City, which might receive a good chunk of your paycheck in order to help with early mornings in the library. And you’ve heard of Residential Dining, a place to grab a quick bite before speeding off to another study session or class. But where can you go to take a break from the stress of class or the anticipation of an upcoming exam?

Welcome to the Mustang Zone—a building in the Student Center that is all play and no work. Also known as the Game Room, the Mustang Zone harbors an array of activities to help students relax, meet new people, or simply kill some time.

The Mustang Zone has evolved tremendously over the years, especially since the destructive Student Center fire that happened in 2005. We spoke with John Alcorn, Assistant Director for Student Center Operations, about the origins of the Mustang Zone and how it has developed.

“Most Student Centers across the country have a game room,” said Alcorn when asked why the Mustang Zone was founded. College students need a place solely for relaxation. Southwest Minnesota State University students are no different. The Mustang Zone has been a part of SMSU since it opened in 1963.

But it hasn’t always been called the Mustang Zone. “[The Mustang Zone] was formerly known as the Game Room,” said Alcorn. Before the 2005 fire that destroyed the Student Center, the Mustang Zone was the name of a nightclub located in the lower Conference Center ballroom of the old Student Center. When the new building opened in April 2005, the Student Center Governing Board voted to change the name from the Game Room to the Mustang Zone.

The name is not the only thing about the Mustang Zone that has changed over the years.

Alcorn reminisced, “Back in the day, [Mustang Zone activities] included video games and pinball machines, in addition to billiards and table tennis,” all of which are nationwide staples of college recreation centers. In 1992, the Student Center Administration voted to add Video Central, which remains one of the Mustang Zone’s most popular attractions.

Amidst many changes and additions, the Mustang Zone has retained its fun and welcoming environment.

Kelsey Stern, a student at SMSU and a Mustang Zone Sales Associate, describes the Zone as a “great place to hang out with friends and possibly meet people with similar interests.” We spoke with several students and the general consensus was that the Zone has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Nick Magness, a former SMSU student, remembers instances of students taking naps on the couches and pool tournaments that helped him relax before an important test.

Along with the newest video games, pool, and ping-pong, The “Zone” also offers various snacks, free foosball, and movie rentals for only $1.

“We want people to feel welcome. That’s why we host tournaments and offer specials during the week [of] and before breaks,” says Stern.

The Mustang Zone has a great, easy-to-find location as well as a great philosophy—“to provide a place for students to relax and meet new people while offering a friendly atmosphere.” This along with the combination of relaxing, fun, and cheap activities make the Zone a college student’s dream.