Union to reopen for Alumni Weekend

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Union to reopen for Alumni Weekend

Story by Katie Thurbon

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As summer break approaches, so does the completion of the next phase of the Student Union renovations.

“We’re right where we thought we’d need to be at this time. We’re on schedule,” Jeremy Portlock director of the physical plant, said. “From this point on, it’s just finishes.”

The union is set to be fully open for Alumni Weekend on May 16-18, with a reception for the 50th anniversary alumni scheduled in the newly renovated space in the eastern part of the union on May 17.

The renovated space will largely consist of a coffee bar and lounge area along with one large and two small study rooms, with windows for walls, for students to convene in. Jeff McCollough, general manager of Sodexo at Baker University, envisions this space as being more than just a place to get coffee or study in.

“My push on this is I wanted to give students who are not on a meal plan a way to kind of sit and commune with the rest of the student body,” McCollough said. “So I think it’ll provide a better sense of community for us.”

McCollough said the coffee bar will be serving Starbucks and Jamba Juice products, along with to-go food options like sandwiches, wraps and yogurt parfaits.

“I think we’ll focus on more of the healthier, lighter side of stuff for the coffee bar,” McCollough said. “Also, our intention is that this will be the late-night option for students so we’ll plan to open at 7 in the morning and go until about 10 at night during the school year.”

For the summer, McCollough plans to have the coffee bar open for limited hours during the day to test out popularity and to help train employees for the beginning of the fall semester.

After the current renovations are finished, the focus will shift to turning the outside area to the south of the union into a patio with outdoor seating.

“We’ll probably start on the patio after graduation,” Darla Prather, director of university budget and facilities, said. “The good news is the fundraising is already complete for the area currently under renovation and nearly complete for the patio area thanks to the Mabee matching grant we received recently.”

Portlock, McCollough and Prather are all optimistic about the outcome of the current construction, comparing it to the transformations of the science building and dining hall.

“My favorite part of the dining hall phase is you can now walk in there and can see outside from three different directions from almost anywhere you stand,” Portlock said. “If you were to step into the café lounge area, even now, you can see we’re doing the same thing. To open the spaces, to add the windows, to create that natural light, is probably one of my favorite aspects as far as aesthetics. The transformation from what it was to what it will be is just incredible.”