By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s main dining hall has a new look and new name for the new school year.
Formerly The Market @ 27th, the dining hall on the second floor of the Nebraskan Student Union is now known as The Graze.
Lopers looking to satisfy their appetites will notice several other changes inside the remodeled space, including an enhanced entrance, improved audio/video system and updated furniture, TVs and menu boards. The entire area received a much-needed face-lift, with new flooring, paint, finishes and branding elements throughout.
Michael Christen, director of business services, said the modern look better represents UNK’s high standards and its partnership with Sodexo, which became the university’s dining services provider in May 2019.
“The dining hall is a huge part of the overall student experience,” Christen said. “We wanted to create a space that meets the needs of current students while also looking toward those future students. We want tours to come in and be excited about their dining hall experience and what it has to offer.”
“This is definitely a space we can show off,” he added.
In addition to the aesthetic upgrades, the renovation improved handicapped accessibility and addressed issues caused by the weight of the commercial equipment.
The Graze also has a larger seating capacity, allowing the dining hall to accommodate an expected increase in student use.
UNK’s new fraternity and sorority housing will be located just east of the student union, giving those students easier access to expanded dining options. Approved in February by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, that project includes a renovation of Martin Hall and construction of a three-story residence hall directly north of Martin. Proposed opening dates are August 2022 for Martin Hall and January 2023 for the new residence hall.
The current fraternity and sorority housing – University Residence North (URN) and University Residence South (URS) – will be razed after the new complex is complete. By eliminating Louie’s Diner, a food court in URS, the university expects to save $250,000 to $350,000 in yearly food services expenses.
Led by design firm Wilkins ADP and contractor Sampson Construction, the transformation of The Graze is the final piece of a multiyear plan to update the dining areas inside the student union. Completed in 2018, a renovation of the student union’s lower level improved the dining areas there, added a Starbucks and Chick-fil-A, created more meeting and study spaces and addressed HVAC, lighting and sewer issues.
“Over the past few years, UNK has done a great job of upgrading its facilities and enhancing services for students,” Christen said. “We wanted to make sure our dining operations match that standard.”
Because of supply chain issues, some of the new items, including the dining tables, have not arrived yet. Christen said updates to The Graze will continue over the next month or so, with little to no impact on operations.
The $1.7 million renovation was paid for with enhancement and renovation funds included in the Sodexo contract and university facility reserves.