Arizona Daily Wildcat
Dramatically expanded food services will greet students in June
The new student union will provide students with one of the most high tech and diverse social and eating spaces in the country, complete with a THX movie theater, computer ports and a food court with six restaurants.
A company was hired three years ago to conduct a comprehensive study on what the students wanted for their food choices, said Dan Adams, director of the Arizona Student Unions Association.
They asked students about what kind of food types they preferred, and they made sure to interview an appropriate sample of the student population, he added.
"The top five responses were pizza, hamburgers, Mexican, Asian and Italian," said Adams. "A convenience store was also an interest."
All of these needs will be met in the new food court and adjacent restaurants in the new union, which will be renamed the Student Union Memorial Center. Phase one of the new union is set to be complete in June. Phase two will be complete in December 2002.
In addition to a new Domino's, McDonalds and Cafe Sonora, a Panda Express and Italian restaurant will meet the requests of the students, said Adams.
There will also be a cafe next to the Italian restaurant to provide coffee and bakery items. These restaurants will be a part of the new food court on the second level of the union.
Cactus Grill - a restaurant which will pull food concepts from Louie's Lower Level and the Fiddlee Fig - will be on the third level and will seat 300, Adams added.
On Deck Deli will also be remodeled and will be accompanied by a balcony area with umbrellas and trees.
The new food court will ultimately seat 500 and have multiple computer ports placed throughout the restaurants.
"We are keeping the Cellar and want to have the ability to grill food there," Adams said. "The old Reddington Room is coming back as The Reddington and will provide a more upscale dining environment."
Also included in the plans is an underground area with food facilities and a THX movie theater, which will be kept open late at night.
"The problem with the old union was that we weren't able to keep it open late because as soon as you opened one door, the entire building had to be opened," said Adams.
"With this idea we can shut off the rest of the building and just keep a portion of it open," he added. "If it is successful and we see a demand for more hours, we may have it open 24 hours."
Adams also said he is optimistic about the stance the university is taking to meet the needs of its students, and that other union directors have "marveled" at what UA has done with its dining services.
"The university has stepped up to the plate by making sure we have enough support for the students," he said. "Our residence halls do not have dining facilities as other universities do, so we have to have a variety of dining facilities in the student union. It is the heart of the campus.
"There are 35,000 students here at the university and 5,000 of them live on campus," he added. "We have to meet their needs first."
Student parking is also an issue, Adams pointed out. Once a student parks on campus, they are less likely to want to leave and come back.
The new U Mart will be expanded from 300 square feet to 3,000 square feet, Adams said.
"It will be about as big as the 7-11 at Park and Speedway, complete with film drop-off and quick snacks," he added.
Adams noticed a difference in students from 25 years ago. They tend to be more picky, less patient and more savvy about what to buy. He felt he had to make accommodations for these changes in attitude.
"We are seeing students who grew up going to (shopping) malls," Adams added. "They want to walk in and get their food quickly, get their fries from one place, the burger one place and their soda from another place."
"We've designed this around the wise consumer," he said. "We had to adjust to purchasing trends because students are much more knowledgeable consumers than their parents' generation."
Adams said students can visit the new union's Web site at www.union.arizona.edu to ask questions or make comments. Adams also said a team is working on expanding the site to include menus and other information.
"This whole project is based on students' needs," Adams said. "We want to add menus, food features and daily information so the students can check it out before they go to eat."
So far students reactions to the forecasted changes have been positive.
"I think that's wonderful," said Stacy Leez, a communication senior. "It makes the (union) more attractive to the students. They'll want to stay on campus."
"I think it (sounds) very impressive, something to brag about," said Dan Kleiman, a finance and marketing senior. "It doesn't sound like a typical student union - very high-tech."
Students are also looking forward to having a place to go at later hours on campus.
"Sounds great," said Baris Cakan, an economics junior. "The fact that there might be something open 24 hours is great. It's an alternative to Jack in the Box. I didn't like the food (at the union) before - hopefully it will be better,"
"The basement idea will be good for people who don't have cars, and it will give (students) a safe place to go late at night," agreed Liz Johnsen, a psychology freshman.