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UA News

Long lines, unhappy students pack new food court

Headline Photo

Business management freshman Chris Cramer (left) and engineering freshman Josh Yankelove eat their long-awaited lunch yesterday afternoon by the Memorial Student Union Center's food court. With the new food court and a record-high freshman class, students are waiting longer than was expected for meals.

By Cyndy Cole

Wednesday August 22, 2001 |

Awnings on terrace installed today, misters a possibility

As the line at McDonald's pushed into tables and chairs in the seating area, the line for On Deck Deli ran past dividers, brushing into cashiers. A backpack on a table saved one of the last remaining seats.

It's 10:30 am in the food court on the main level of the Memorial Student Union Center, and students are upset.

"I'm not eating here," said Zoe Bowick, a fine arts senior.

"Any time you want to get lunch, it's a long wait," said computer science junior Miles Kline. "I think the old union was better."

The food court will not expand until at least December 2002, said Curt Jennings, Swinerton Builders project executive.

"Giving yourself a half an hour for lunch (is) not a good plan," said David Galbraith, director of UA Dining Services. "If you're going to come (to the food court) you might not do it for a week or so. In a week, it will be cool."

Restaurant workers are selling and delivering food as quickly as possible, but still may be taking longer to deliver meals than in the previous union, as they adjust to their surroundings, Jennings said.

One student has attempted three times to eat meals in the new union Monday and yesterday, but has not had enough time to wait out long lines and one occasion of bad service.

The student, molecular and cellular biology junior Elaine Kozuka, went without lunch and breakfast Monday, and without lunch yesterday as a result of long lines.

Other students don't like the layout of the new food court.

"It's too much like the Tucson Mall," Danielle Roberts, political science senior, said. "In the old union, everything was broken up into separate (areas). If you wanted to eat, you only had to deal with your own little crowd (in each restaurant). I'm a little too claustrophobic for this."

"The lines block the exits," Kozuka said. "What if there was a fire?"

Fire is not a big risk, university officials say.

"We don't think (the food court) is a fire risk because of the four exits out of the area," said Herb Wagner, associate director of risk management and safety. The inside area of the main food court has an occupancy of 325 people, Wagner added.

Between dining areas upstairs, downstairs and in the terrace outside the union, there are a little more than 1,000 seats available Jennings said.

Originally, Swinerton Builders planned for up to 1,400 seats in the union, he said.

"But the university wanted space for other things," he added. Fast Copy, a game room and union offices replaced seating, Jennings said.

Students sitting outside of the food court may be more comfortable soon.

New awnings will be added today and tomorrow to replace the temporary canopies now in place, he said.

"We are discussing misters (for the terrace)," Jennings said.

Meanwhile, the best bet for students looking to grab a bite and a seat is to head upstairs.

While there are approximately 170 food court seats in the union at ground level, Cactus Grill on the third floor has 300 seats.

"Lines at Cactus Grill (formerly Fiddlee Fig) were not too bad today," Galbraith said.

Despite overcrowding, some UA employees take a simplistic approach to solving food court dilemmas.

"It's the first week," Wagner said. "Everyone in the world wants to eat at the new student union. Maybe the crowds will drive people away."


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