Students line up to swipe into Lower Cort for lunch on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in the University Center. Lehigh may have to increase dining hall capacity as the student body expands under the Path to Prominence plan. (Roshan Giyanani/B&W Staff)

Lehigh examines dining trends for Path to Prominence expansion

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Lehigh’s new expansion plan, Path to Prominence, will need to find a way to efficiently feed the 1,000 new undergraduate students coming to campus over the next seven years.

There are currently 14 dining options for students, with 11 retail dining options for takeout. The three sit-down options — Rathbone, Lower Cort and Brodhead — are often full during peak lunch and dinner hours. General manager of Lehigh Dining Bruce Christine said no solutions for overfilled dining halls are set in stone since the expansion is still being planned.

“The whole growth is all about communication,” Christine said. “In order to continue building great future opportunities for all of us, we need to continue having a dialogue between the students and staff.”

Christine said it is hard to manage the long wait times during peak hours due to the massive influx of students converging into dining halls at the same time. He compared it to traffic coming out of a stadium after a professional sporting match.

Lehigh is looking into the dining trends of students to help determine where the optimal food court expansions would be. University architect Brent Stringfellow said the planning committee will decide based on students’ needs.

“If we add this many residence halls and this many students, what does that mean for dining?” Stringfellow said. “Does that mean the University Center or Rathbone need to be expanded upon, or do we do something with the dining halls?”

Stringfellow said there is a possibility there will be dining options within the 400-bed residence hall that’s being built on Brodhead Avenue. He is looking into different building designs for the new dorms to determine what satisfies students’ dining and living needs.

Logan Herr, ’18, said he frequently eats meals at the dining halls during peak hours and usually waits 10 to 15 minutes just to enter the dining hall itself. He said he would appreciate a shorter wait time so he can get food without worrying about being late to class.

Rathbone extended its hours for students this year, which could be the model for future dining halls. Stringfellow said more retail dining areas such as Hawk’s Nest, Global Cafe and Common Grounds could be added to give students additional options to reduce crowding.

Lehigh is also conducting a study to possibly expand upon the original 1868 portion of the University Center. Nick Bryant, ’19, said extra checkout options would make dining halls less hectic throughout the year.

“One of the new areas that will benefit from some transformation is the landscape itself, which will enhance outdoor life as much as indoor life,” Stringfellow said. “It will be exciting to see the campus come alive with new spaces during the expansion.”

The Path to Prominence is planned to be completed within the next 10 years.

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