For some it’s just a rumor; for others it’s one of UNC Charlotte’s best kept secrets, found in the heart of campus just feet below the surface. The 150 foot underground tunnel connects the College of Health and Human Services building to the College of Education building.
The “Secret Tunnel” was constructed nearly two decades ago under former Chancellor Jim Woodward. During the planning and design process for the new College of Health and Human Services and College of Education buildings, it became clear that there was no space for a loading dock. The two buildings would be forced to share one loading dock, and former Chancellor Jim Woodward did not want service vehicles in the CHHS/COED Plaza, so the University created an underground tunnel to connect the two buildings. The system would allow for a direct route to make deliveries and transport supplies between the two buildings without disturbing the main entrances or the major walkways.
Today, this tunnel is still operational and used daily by University staff. It is open and accessible for all students to use, according to Nathaniel Snodgrass, the Director of Facilities Operations.
The underground tunnel spans nearly 150 feet. If needed, it can serve as a shelter during a natural disaster or emergency, fitting up to as many as 250 people with access to a blue light emergency phone. It can be accessed from the ground floor, labeled as floor 0. The tunnel or service corridor is located in room 67, which is on the side of the building farthest from the Student Union.
When asked if there are any additional tunnels or similar features on campus, Snodgrass explained that, “There is an access area to and from the King building that goes through the Cone garage area under the building; however, it’s not a tunnel. This is fully accessible to all, but generally not used very often. There is also an abandoned fresh air intake between King and Reese; this area is secured and not accessible.”
The only other tunnel on or near campus is the recently opened Blue Line Extension tunnel, which allows the light rail to turn onto campus passing underneath N Tryon Street. That tunnel is nearly 1,100 feet long and not open to pedestrians.
Many students are unaware of the underground tunnel. When asked where they think the tunnel is located, Sophomore Robert Mills speculated that, “A secret underground tunnel would be somewhere near the lower level of the Student Union or near Prospector and probably only be for University staff,” while sophomore Emma Wilson guessed, “An underground tunnel would be near the football stadium, or even inside the stadium for the football team or event workers to use during football games or events to avoid large crowds.”
Sophomore Amber Meyer had heard about the tunnel but has never been there. “An Orientation Counselor told me about the tunnel during Summer Orientation, but I have never needed to use it,” said Meyer. “I think because it wasn’t built for the purpose of being a pedestrian walkway, it isn’t useful to students. It would be great and useful to students if it went under Craver Road and connected to the Student Union to help cut down on traffic in that area.”
The tunnel at UNC Charlotte is not the only tunnel in the UNC System. NC State features a free expression tunnel which is covered with art and graffiti and promoted by the school for artists to decorate. Appalachian State in recent years has also created a makeshift free expression tunnel near its football stadium. UNC Charlotte does not currently allow for graffiti or art in this tunnel as it remains just a hidden pathway for supplies and a shortcut for professors.