Construction of the University Center will begin in summer 2020. There will be a heated structure to temporarily replace Lower and Upper corts and an expansion of existing dining areas around campus. (Brian Lucas/B&W Staff)

UC renovations impact future dining options

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With the planned renovation of the University Center, the services located within the building that students and staff rely on will have to find new homes throughout campus.

Brent Stringfellow, the associate vice president of facilities and university architect, said “the project will start no earlier than the summer of 2020,” meaning that the UC will still function as it does for the next academic year.

The process is expected to take approximately two years to be completed, Stringfellow said. During this time, with the loss of central dining facilities, the school is looking into replacement options.

A major part of the new food accommodations would be the addition of a sprung structure on campus to act as a temporary dining hall.

This structure is commonly referred to as a tent, which Carol Hill, director of Student Center Facilities, said is a misleading label. 

“The sprung structure is something that is heated, you have a real floor in it, there’s windows in it, so it’s not just a tent — it’s an actual framed building,” Hill said. 

The location of this structure would be on Library Drive near Linderman, Hill said, so the front lawn would still be open for student use and activities. Along with eating space, kitchens and bathrooms would also be put into temporary structures.

As for the jobs of those working in these dining spaces, Stringfellow said downsizing will not occur, but the staff’s jobs might look different.

“In terms of the dining staff right now, there’s no anticipated impact, but there would likely be reassignments,” he said.

Another approach the school is considering to offset the loss of dining space in the UC is enhancing existing dining facilities to increase their capacities.

Hill said the university is considering increasing the options of food available in E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library (FML).

“There’s a coffee shop in there that they will expand what they’re able to offer as well,” Hill said. “They will probably increase some of the food options through the Hawks Nest. Lamberton could be an option, especially for seating.”

These changes are already underway to help with food availability, as a new food truck, Simply Skewered, has been added to campus. The enhancement of the FML cafe could happen next fall. Along with the library cafe and Hawks Nest, Stringfellow said the university is exploring the idea of increasing the capacities of Brodhead Dining Hall and Rathbone.

Zach Vinik, ’20, the president of Student Senate, said these changes are necessary. 

You look at other schools’ university centers and its a place where students hang out,” Vinik said. “It’s a place where students spend a lot of their time. There’s study spaces, there’s nooks, there’s offices, there’s a designated space for clubs that doesn’t exist on this campus, and it is a need.

Madalyn Eadline, the assistant to the vice provost for Student Affairs and director of Special Projects, agreed that it’s time for a remodel of the University Center given that the last time major renovations were done to that building was in 1958.

The remodel plans to modernize the interior of the building while maintaining the historic exterior.

Eadline said she isn’t concerned about any impact the renovations will have on admissions or the future of the university.

“There’s isn’t a campus that doesn’t have some kind of construction going on,” Eadline said. “It’s just the nature of having an expanding campus.”

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