The Gopher Hole, a student space located in the basement of Mary Fisher, is projected to be ready for student use by the end of winter break. It has been closed for approximately seven years and is currently under construction to repair a drainage issue.
According to Andy Voytek, Director of Facilities Management Services (FMS), the space was taken “offline” in fall of 2018 when a leak in the foundation was discovered following the completion of the Mary Fisher addition.
“Once the construction was completed, we discovered that we had a leak in the foundation on the exterior wall of the Gopher Hole,” Voytek said, “That leak was rather significant and causing a lot of issues.”
The Gopher Hole initially closed in 2016 due to the renovation of Mary Fisher, but the leak prevented it from being reopened in 2018 with the rest of the building. Voytek, who was not Director of FMS at the time, said they needed a full summer to properly assess the damage and decide further steps.
During the summer of 2019, FMS identified an issue related to drainage and made the repairs the following school year.
Voytek said they planned to take a full semester to ensure the repairs were successful, but the pandemic significantly delayed this process. He cites supply chain issues as a major factor in the delay and said that his team was like a “skeleton crew” working on campus during the period of virtual learning.
“I think when you look at the calendar… you could easily say that the repairs have taken a tremendously long time,” Voytek said, “I think [the pandemic] makes it much more understandable.”
When campus fully reopened last fall, FMS hoped the Gopher Hole could too. But issues with the wall leakage persisted, and the space remains under construction.
Rumors of there being asbestos in the Gopher Hole have circulated the student body, but Voytek said these rumors are false and that there is no asbestos in that area.
Voytek is confident that the space will be available for programming by the time students come back from winter break. It will also be revamped with fresh paint, electronic upgrades, and a brand new bar shelf.
What exactly the Gopher Hole is remains a mystery to Goucher’s current students. It was most recently a student hangout spot that hosted various events and served refreshments including alcohol, according to their Facebook page. Now, it is mostly used as a shortcut on the way to class or the dining hall if the door is not locked.
Set to reopen seven years after its initial close, Goucher’s current student body has no connection to what the Gopher Hole has been, so the space could potentially take whatever form they desire. Programming for the Gopher Hole, nicknamed the “GoHo” in previous years, falls under the jurisdiction of the Office of Student Engagement (OSE).
The Gopher Hole has been flexible throughout its history. An article in The Baltimore Sun from 1999 hailed the space as a “creative solution” to curb student drinking levels when it operated as a non-alcoholic nightclub. In 2016, however, the Gopher Hole would host “Pub Nights” with $2 beer and $3 wine and cider.
Given the ongoing pandemic, it would be beneficial to have more student hangout spaces on campus to deter students from going off-campus and potentially contracting Covid.
The Quindecim reached out to Erica Gardner, Director of OSE, but they did not provide comment on plans for the Gopher Hole at this time.