Student Union celebrates 45 years of service today

By Melanie Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 15, 1996

The Memorial Student Union turns 45 today.

The birthday party is being held today in the Union Gallery on the first floor of the Union.

Beginning at 1 p.m., Union officials will decorate and pass out pieces of a cake in the shape of the Student Union. Fountain drink prices in Cafe Sonora and Taco Bell Express will reflect their cost in 1951 at 15 cents per soda.

Sam's Place will also have $1.25 hourly billiards in celebration of the event.

The specials are to let students know the Union appreciates their patronage over the last 45 years, said Sue Crisp, marketing specialist for the Union.

According to the Union's history, which has been displayed near the information desk all week, the "Y Hut," the first unofficial student recreation center, opened in December 1918. It provided students with a table to play games on, a set of showers and reading and writing rooms. Motion pictures were shown three times a week.

The idea of a Student Union was first proposed by UA President Cloyd Heck Marvin in 1923 but it was not until 1938 when then-UA President Alfred Atkinson set up a committee to evaluate plans for the Union.

The plans were stalled in 1940 when committee members could not agree on the location. The chosen location was the site of Old Main.

The onset of World War II ended plans to build the Union. When the war ended, it gave new inspiration to the Union which was to be a memorial to the men who lost their lives in the war.

By 1949, the university had a budget of $750,000 and architectural plans to build the Union. When the Union was completed in November 1951 the cost had grown to $1.2 million.

One-third of the Union's cost was funded by the state legislature, and one-third was raised by the university community, corporations, and private donations. The additional cost was paid for by the sale of bonds.

In 1954, the bookstore was added the Union, and Gallagher Theater and the Cellar were built in 1971. One of the last major changes to the Union was the closing of the Union pool located near the back entrance.

Today, the Union is waiting for a proposal which will determine whether to renovate the building or demolish it and start from scratch. The proposal is expected at the end of the month, said Gilbert Davidson, chairman of the Student Union Advisory Council.