The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point is said to have had a secret underground tunnel system. Some of the tunnels still remain, and some exist as steam supply and condensate return systems, which heat the campus buildings.
Carl Rasmussen, UWSP Director of Facilities Planning, knows a little bit about this tunnel network.
“The system is not a “tunnel” in the sense that it can be accessed by anyone to travel from building to building,” Rasmussen said.
Most of the tunnels are used as steam supply and condensate return systems. The majority of the piping is located within a concrete box conduit. The space inside is only about 20 inches high by 28 inches across. In some areas of campus, there is no box conduit, and the steam lines are directly buried in the ground.
“The network includes about 2.5 miles of piping in order to supply all the buildings that are connected to the George Stien central heating plant, located on Maria Drive, with heat,” Rasmussen said.
Along the way are a series of “steam pits.” The utility pits are buried belowground and can be accessed by campus maintenance personnel, but they do not lead anywhere. The pits serve only as junction points for servicing individual buildings or as break points for long runs in the supply lines.
A similar two-mile long pit and conduit system exists for the buried electrical system supplying electrical service to the campus buildings.
“The electrical conduits that run from pit to pit are even smaller than the concrete box conduit carrying the steam lines. Usually two to eight pipes, about four to eight inches in diameter, are buried three feet belowground and encased in concrete to protect them from damage,” Rasmussen said.
These pits can also be accessed by campus maintenance personnel, but they do not lead anywhere. As with steam, the pits serve only as loop points for serving individual buildings, or as inspection and pull points for long runs in the electrical supply lines.
“There is one true tunnel that connects the Park Student Services Center with the Dreyfus University Center. This tunnel is open to the public and can be used during the hours that the buildings are open,” Rasmussen said.
Another tunnel once existed between Old Main and the Student Services Center, but it was removed in 1979 when former wing additions on the east and west sides of Old Main were torn down.
“A small remnant, only a few feet long, was retained as a small storage closet for the Student Services Center,” Rasmussen said.
A few interior service tunnels also exist within the Science, Health Enhancement, and Noel Fine Arts buildings. They are there mainly to route utility pipes and move air within the buildings that do not include basements in their construction.
A small coal storage bunker also still remains under the parking lot near Old Main, from the days when coal was burned at a small central heating plant before it was relocated north to Maria Drive.
“The bunker now serves mainly for routing electrical, communications and steam supply lines and occasional temporary storage,” Rasmussen said.