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UNK Student Government is hosting a campus event 4 p.m. Monday to celebrate the Nebraskan Student Union improvements and opening of Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. The UNK community is invited to attend the event inside the union’s west side near the new restaurants.
By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Madie Denson was behind the counter at Starbucks getting to know the equipment, menu and co-workers at her new job.
It was just her second day working at the coffee shop inside the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Nebraskan Student Union, and she was already preparing herself for the influx of customers that’s sure to come.
“Once it hits Aug. 20, I think it’s going to be insanely busy,” Denson, a senior health sciences major, said late Tuesday morning.
The Omaha native knows the revamped union and its new offerings will be a hit with UNK students who begin fall classes next week. She got her first look at the improvements Monday and was definitely impressed.
“What they’ve done with the construction is absolutely incredible,” Denson said, adding that the changes give the space a more modern, “college-friendly” look.
“I’ve been excited to see all the renovations, especially what they’ve done to Starbucks,” she said.
A $6 million project that started in December added a fully licensed Starbucks with a complete food and drink menu to the student union. That space opened Aug. 8.
Chick-fil-A – the only location in Kearney – opens today (Aug. 16) inside the union, and an existing Subway rounds out the restaurant selection.
Denson, who lives off campus, said the new dining options make it easier for students to grab a quick bite or get their caffeine fix on the way to class.
Max Lindgren agrees.
“That’s a lot of food I know the guys and I really like,” he said Tuesday while heading to lunch with a group of buddies at The Market @ 27th on the union’s second floor.
The sophomore biology major from Ogallala said he’s been looking forward to Chick-fil-A’s arrival for more than a year. He expects the popular fast-food restaurant known for its chicken sandwiches and waffle fries to be a major draw.
“I know a lot of people who will come from off campus for Chick-fil-A alone,” Lindgren said. “I think it will help a lot.”
One of the main goals of the student union upgrade is to increase foot traffic and emphasize the building’s role as a gathering spot and hub of activity for prospective students, current Lopers, alumni and community members.
In addition to improved dining areas, the project design creates a more open layout with spaces for meetings, studying, relaxing or hanging out with friends, including a student lounge with a gas fireplace that should be finished soon. New furniture and interior finishes are also part of the project, which is scheduled for completion by Sept. 6.
UNK Student Body President Logan Krejdl said the improvements revitalize one of the most important areas on campus for students.
“I think it’s going to make students a lot happier,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The project, which also addresses HVAC, lighting and sewer issues, was initiated by UNK Student Government members back in 2015-16. Student surveys showed overwhelming support for 24-hour access to the union, which was implemented in fall 2016, new restaurant options and other changes.
The $6 million renovation, paid for with facility reserve funds and vendor investments, was approved by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in March 2017.
Krejdl praised former Student Government leaders, as well as UNK administrators and staff members from the business and finance and student engagement offices, for making this vision a reality.
“I really can’t thank them enough for all their hard work the past couple of years,” he said.
Standing outside the student union, Lindgren pointed to this project and several others – the recently completed Village Flats residence hall, a STEM building that’s under construction and an Early Childhood Education Center that will soon follow – as signs of progress at UNK.
“There’s a lot of new construction going on and everyone is excited to see the Kearney campus getting even better,” he said.
HOURS OF OPERATION
Starbucks is open 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and 2 to 8 p.m. Sundays. The coffee shop is closed on Saturdays.
Chick-fil-A’s hours for this week are 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Regular hours, which begin next week, are 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Fridays and 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.
All restaurants inside the Nebraskan Student Union are open to the public and available for UNK students to use their flexible meal plan dollars.
Public parking is available at the metered stalls located east of the union or south of Calvin T. Ryan Library. Metered parking is free on weekends and after 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. Parking permits are not required for lots 3, 4 and 6 directly north and east of the union on weekends and after 2:30 p.m. on weekdays.
A map of the UNK campus and parking lots can be found here: http://www.unk.edu/campus-map