The recreation room in the basement of the Freshman Union reopened last night, despite earlier reports that an asbestos problem would prevent the arcade's operation this year.
The College had not allowed the center to open this year, after traces of asbestos were found there, sources said. This led Harvard's video game aficionados to wonder whether the arcade was closed for good.
But Harvard Student Agencies (HSA), which operates the center, hosted a special opening, complete with blue and white balloons and free food.
"We thought this would be a great opportunity to get people here for the first time," said Robert E. Gianniao '95, manager of Harvard Student Resources, a division of HSA.
The University asked HSA, which rents the space, to delay the opening of the arcade this fall, Gianniao said. But HSA was not told the nature of the renovations, he said.
"We had no idea of the delay until late August," he said. "We were asked to open late."
Gianniao said changes in management also delayed the opening.
Nancy Williams '95, the former arcade manager, took time off this semester.
For years, members of Harvard's first-year classes have trooped down to the Union basement after dinner for a dessert of pinball and pool. The room features nine game machines, including the popular Mortal Kombat II.
"I'd like to make time in the middle of the day to come down here and play Space Lords," said Carsten M. Reichel '98. "It's a good tension reliever."
Though the opening of the arcade has assuaged the fears of the technologically-oriented game players, pool players may do well to find an alternate recreation site.
The pool tables at the Union are not now available to students because the recreation center does not have full-time attendants, Gianniao said. he said it is a "goal" to find attendants.
Gianniao said the main reason HSA operates the arcade is to give students "a place to go to have fun." He said the arcade offers HSA a "small margin of return," profits of about 10 percent of the money students spend there.
Jeffrey M. Frank '98 said he plans to go to the arcade until he runs out of money.
"I loved it. It was better than Cats," Frank said. "And I will come back again and again."
The arcade will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays