A rendering of the North side of the future UCF Student Union expansion has been made available to the public.
The current Union was constructed in 1997, when UCF student enrollment included only 28,000 students. Now, with 63,000 students, the Board of Trustees approved a construction project and multi-million dollar agreement with Aramark to provide a 21st century heart of campus to students.
Additional seating – 400 to 1,150, and 315 seats to about 750 in the food court alone, power outlets, and a second floor to the food court can be expected with the project. Additional restaurants have been selected for the expansion.
The expansion has not been met with cheers by many, however. The contract included the loss of popular restaurants such alumni-owned Wackadoo’s. Business owners and employees, as seen with Asian Chao, among other restaurants, feared losing employment and a continued spot serving students in the Student Union.
Restaurants such as Huey Magoo’s – who expected to open their full menu with the expansion, had their contract terminated due to ongoing health inspection violations. Asian Chao and Huey Magoo’s fell to the lease termination. Corner Cafe closed over Winter Break 2016 due to a management decision to focus on Asian Chao and Huey Magoo’s prior to their lease termination.
On Nov. 19, 2015 the UCF Board of Trustees will vote on a 10-year contract extension with Aramark, the University of Central Florida’s campus dining services provider, to include physical changes to UCF’s center of campus.
If voted in favor, Aramark would cover a $13 million to $14 million expansion to the Student Union’s north wall facing Memory Mall, drawing no funds from student fees.
“The Student Union was constructed in 1997, when enrollment was about 28,000 students,” said UCF assistant vice president Chad Binette. “Today, with 63,000 students, there isn’t enough seating to accommodate student demand, and food options are spread throughout the building’s first floor.”
The addition looks to extend the wall outward and add a second floor, nearly tripling available seating for students in the Union from 400 to 1,150.
Estimated revenues for the university over the next 10 years could also yield $82 million, compared to the $26 million UCF received in the last decade.
Binette continued by saying that “Aramark has been UCF’s dining services provider since 2001. The current contract took effect in 2006 and UCF and Aramark can mutually agree to an extension that would take effect in 2016. [The] committee recommendation sends the proposal to the full Board of Trustees for consideration.”
A majority of universities have a single provider of food services on the entire campus, a contrast to UCF including several venders who are not connected with the main provider of food services.
In assurance to students, meal plan prices would not be impacted if a deal is reached – the university must approve any changes in meal plan prices under the current agreement and under the proposal. For vendors not connected with Aramark, prices must be comparable to what is charged off campus, officials said.
“Students are pleased with Aramark’s food services and would benefit greatly from the expanded seating,” UCF student body president Cait Zona said. “This contract would allow us to step up in the Student Union.”
Those currently enrolled at UCF will be a part of the process that determines which restaurants arrive to the main campus under the expansion.
Knights Plaza restaurants would remain independent of the Board of Trustees’ consideration.
The heart of campus will be getting a face lift due to the new University of Central Florida agreement with Aramark.
An attachment on the Student Development and Enrollment Services website showcased some conceptualized union plans which include a second floor in the food court and new restaurants on campus.
“A major renovation to the Student Union will expand restaurant and retail space, more than doubling the seating available for dining and studying and easing overcrowding,” the report said.
The food court itself will grow from 315 seats to about 750.
Other Aramark plans in place are a restaurant by the Recreation and Wellness Center and a 63 South renovation. No new dining halls will be opened.
The definite restaurants have not been chosen yet. The release said that Aramark and UCF will use student input in the future to see what restaurants will reside in the new food court.
“Under the agreement, Aramark will begin overseeing dining services in the Student Union during the next few years and will work closely with students to identify which restaurants – current or new – that they would like to see. At least two of the restaurants will be local businesses,” the document said.
The release lists the restaurant categories that were recommended by a focus group:
- Asian: Panda Express
- Bakery/Café: Einstein Bros. or Au Bon Pain
- Burgers: Steak and Shake
- Chicken: Pollo Tropical suggested for RWC restaurant
- Pizza: Papa John’s
- Mexican: Qdoba
- Salad: No preference
- Sandwiches: Which Wich or Firehouse Subs
- Snacks: No preference
- Coffee: No preference
- Varied Menu/Sit-Down Restaurant: Chili’s
- Convenience/Drinks: Tropical Smoothie or Smoothie King
The two local or alumni owned businesses have not been selected yet.
This project will be paid by Aramark, who will dish out an estimated $14 million for the expansion in exchange of its 10-year contract expansion with UCF’s dining services.
“Overall, UCF’s estimated revenue from the 10-year contract extension with Aramark is $82 million, compared with $26 million for the most recent 10 years,” according to the report.
The expansion will open opportunities for student employment. Employees from current restaurants will be able to apply for work at the current restaurants as well.
A concern current business owners said they had was Aramark not employing students.
The Aramark proposal faced a lot of controversy up to and even after its approval. Not all students and alumni think the heart of campus needs to be owned by a corporation.
“Although UCF and Aramark claim to want student input in the future, it would have been nice to have student input beforehand. Although a Student Union expansion isn’t what we have a problem with, we have a problem with one company controlling what that Student Union will look like, what things will cost and who will have the ability to open a business there,” Student Action Labor Project member Ofelia Sanchez said.
A construction date has not been set yet and food prices will be comparable to local market rates, the report said. The conceptual design will also not destroy the natural area outside of the union.
Check back on KnightNews.com for updates on the Student Union construction.