CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- Despite the below-freezing temperatures, students at Mount Mercy University can be caught heading to classes in shorts or flip flops.
It's all thanks to a unique feature on campus that's been around for decades offering students and staff alike a welcomed escape from Iowa's bitter winter weather.
It's an underground tunnel system first built for utilities explained Vice President of Student Success, Nate Klein.
"The tunnels have been here somewhat from the beginning of the University because they wanted to be able to connect Ward Hall, which is our originally building to the rest of the campus," said Klein.
As the campus has expanded over the years so has the tunnel system, giving students like Junior, Peyton Staab a way to class without ever going outside.
"When it gets really cold almost everyone is in the tunnels there's really nobody outside," said Staab.
The tunnels connect the entire upper campus making for a warm walk to classes, the cafeteria, and even the gym.
"Actually in the polar vortex last year I wasn't outside for like two weeks. I used them every single day," said Staab.
"Students can roll out of bed five minutes before class still in their flip flops and shorts and walk right into class. Do they don't have to worry about bundling up or getting their sleds to make it down the hill," said Klein.
Even for an Iowa native, like Staab, it's was a draw when choosing where to go when considering a college.
"I am as used to [winter] as you can get," said Staab, "It's a very good excuse not to have to step outside especially with the weather we've had the last couple of days it's very cold. so it's really nice to not have to throw on your jacket to go to class."
The tunnels feature maps, telephones, and security cameras to ensure student safety. To make them more inviting each year the incoming freshman add artwork, while the senior class gets to sign a wall.
On icy days you may even catch the cross country or track teams utilizing the tunnels for their workouts.
"People that are walking hear someone coming on the left and they see someone sprinting by and it's a great way for our students to not only stay in shape but stay safe so they're not running on the ice too," said Klein.
University security officers periodically make the rounds and the tunnels are closed overnight for safety.