UNK-Valuable input from University of Nebraska at Kearney students has provided insight and ideas regarding the renovations to the Nebraskan Student Union. The design is now complete and with the recommendations of the NSU Renovation Steering Committee, approved by Chancellor Gladys Styles Johnston, plans for groundbreaking can move forward.
Plans by The Clark Enersen Partners architecture firm will be sent out for construction bids in early summer and groundbreaking is slated to begin mid-August.
“We believe we’ve gathered enough information from students to make the renovations beneficial for everyone,” said Ryan Samuelson, UNK Student Body president.
The project will add approximately 25,000 square feet to the Nebraskan. The new addition will be a three-story structure placed on the west side of the existing building.
“Quite frankly, we were behind in terms of student work space and conveniences in the union,” said Randy Haack, vice chancellor for business and finance.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska at Omaha both renovated their student unions recently, Haack said. While planning the new designs for the Nebraskan, the UNL and UNO unions were visited for reference.
“We have taken the best ideas from these schools and adapted them to our environment,” Haack said.
The goal of the renovation is to create an atmosphere that encourages students, faculty and the community to partake in the programs and events held in the building.
“The union will become a campus destination for every student, rather than just providing on-campus students a food service,” Haack said.
With over 150 student organizations, the existing student meeting spaces were very limited, Haack said. The renovations will also create more lounging space for students, including a fireside lounge.
The southwest side of the building will be enclosed by glass on both levels. The food vendors in the union will be relocated to the first level of an expanded food court with five food vendors. Taco Bell and Blimpie will remain and the university is looking into bringing a fast food burger vendor and a pizza vendor into the union, along with a coffee shop and convenience store.
The Nebraskan Student Union was constructed in 1964 and was renovated in 1981 and again in 1994 when the commons dining area, the Sandhills Room and the Chancellor’s Dining Room were remodeled. The renovations completed twenty years ago don’t accommodate the greater demands of students for both technology and services today. In the planning of this renovation, that was taken into consideration, Haack said. Stand-up email counters will be created so students can quickly check their electronic messages will breezing through the union. The lounges will include ports from which students can plug in their laptops and connect with the university network. A 24-hour computer lab, copy center and post office will also be housed in the union.
On the second level, the student dining area will remain unchanged, but the Ponderosa Room will be expanded and equipped with larger catering facilities. The third floor addition on the west side of the building will include meeting rooms that will provide prime observation of Foster Field. An elevator to the third floor will improve ADA accessibility to the viewing of activities at Foster Field and accessibility to the entire union will be upgraded.
There is also a possibility of a fitness area and plaza area being included in the renovations if the construction bids are low enough.
“The renovations will blend into the existing building so it looks like everything was built in the same era,” Samuelson said.
The project has an expected completion date of October 2002. There will be minor inconveniences, but Haack said the end product will far outweigh any inconveniences encountered during construction.
The past four UNK student body presidents have strongly supported renovation and expansion. The UNK student body government approved the renovations last year and supported establishing a $50 per semester fee to fund the renovations. Last May, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved the fee and The Clark Enersen Partners were chosen to design the improvements to the union.