The Indiana Jones pinball machine is one of the newest additions to the Powell Student Center. SGA plans to add a Playstation 3 and an Xbox 360 in the near future. (Rachel Stone)

By Bryan Reynolds

Last year, the game room on Powell’s main floor was mostly a quiet place. Occasionally, a few students would play a round of pool while another slept soundly on the couch across the room. But now things have changed.

Now, the game room, which was outfitted earlier this year with an assortment of new arcade games courtesy of the Student Government Association, has taken on a new life.

Instead of the sounds of shoes squeaking on the way out the door, the room is filled with the ding of the pinball machine, the waka-waka from Ms. Pac-Man, and the clack of pool balls.

At almost any time of the day, students can be found there just hanging out and relaxing-something that would have been a rarity just a year ago.

“It’s enjoyable down here,” said Wes Warner Nelson, a freshman from Lexington majoring in aviation. “Come down here before or after an exam and clear your head. Feel stressed out and take it out on the pool table.”

Nelson said he and his buddies hit the game room five or six days a week to shoot pool or play the pinball and arcade games.

One of the biggest perks, which also happened to help build the game room’s new popularity: all the games are now free. Last year, students had to pay $2 to play pool. But now, students can just turn over an ID and they may play pool for as long as they want.

That’s worked out well for Derek Kirunchyk, an Eastern graduate, and his wife Nikki, a nursing major. The couple hits the game room almost every Tuesday morning to hone their pool skills in preparation for a Lexington billiards league they play in.

And although the billiards tables are the main draw, not everyone comes to play pool. Brittany McDowell, a freshman majoring in pre-vet, said she visits the game room three or four times a day to play Ms. Pac-Man. The game, along with an Indiana Jones pinball machine and another classic arcade machine, carrying games such as Asteroids, Street Fighter 2 and Mega Man, were installed earlier this year, giving students an assortment of other ways to pass the time.

The video games, like the pool table, are free for students-a feature that many acknowledge is one of the reasons they now frequent the place.

Within the next month or so, SGA plans to add a new air hockey table with a digital display as well as a bumper pool table to the room. In addition, SGA officials said they’ll grant one of the big wishes from students: they plan to add an Xbox 360, a Playstation 3, and perhaps even a Nintendo Wii to the room, which will be likewise be available without charge.

Dajuane Harris, executive vice president of SGA, said the gaming consoles would be available after they figure out a satisfactory way to encase the systems in a secure cabinet, ensuring they aren’t damaged from routine play.

Harris said the SGA has spent more than $24,000 of the $30,000 budget that was set aside to refurbish the game room. Once the new additions-the gaming consoles, a new air hockey table and a bumper pool table-are installed later this semester, SGA plans to host a grand-opening party.

They also plan to sponsor a contest for students to name the new room, Harris said. He added that the additions would likely be completed by the end of November.

Harris said that he’s been very pleased with how students have responded to the changes.

“It’s great to see 20 or more students in there,” Harris said.

In fact, he said, Powell officials have occasionally had to do something they never did before: Ask students to leave so the building could be closed for the night.