The new Ohio Union opened today after more than four years of planning, two-and-a-half years of construction and a frantic past two weeks that saw the finishing touches being put into place.
“Overall we’re scrambling,” said Tracy Stuck, director of the Union. “But it’s not as chaotic as I thought it would be.” She added that she, like many of the staff, had worked late nights and weekends before the opening.
At noon there will be ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the west pavilion and on the east side of the building facing High Street . There will also be free food, prizes, music and games all day.
A preview day for media two weeks ago had to be rescheduled because a shipment of furniture hadn’t been delivered yet, but Stuck said the project remained on schedule.
During a tour for The Lantern before spring break, workers were hanging art, arranging furniture and bustling throughout all four levels of the $118 million building.
Workers at the food court, including students, were preparing for opening day, some acting as official taste-testers.
The food court on the first floor will be similar to Marketplace, Stuck said, with stations for international cuisine, a coffee shop and a deli/bakery.
Breakfast will be served all day at the retro Sloopy’s Diner, and Woody’s Tavern will offer Ohio wines and beers.
Throughout the rest of the building, the rooms range from the massive Archie Griffin Ballroom, which can seat more than 2,500, to the quirky Maudine Cow room, with Holstein cow-print carpeting, in the basement.
In the ballroom on the second floor, the second largest event space in central Ohio, chandeliers descend from Block Os in the ceiling. But no matter the size of the room, Stuck said the main goal is to provide “flexibility” for students’ needs.
A lantern-shaped room that commemorates Ohio’s role in the Underground Railroad could be used to display art, hold small banquets or lectures or simply accommodate students who want to hang out, she said.
There are also student lounges on every floor. Stuck said her idea for the Union was for it to be “the living room of campus.” Along with the lounges, some of which are quiet study spaces, there are also 132 TVs throughout the building.
“If you think back to the living room of childhood,” said Kurt Foriska, assistant director of the Union, “it’s the place where you had fun, where your family was built, but also where you learned lessons.”
Stuck and Foriska said they hoped the Center for Student Leadership and Service would provide a space for students to learn the lessons of leadership.
About 80 student groups will have space on the second and third floors. However, there will be spaces for other group meetings as well, Foriska said.
The Center is entirely for students, he said. Students will have to swipe their BuckIDs to gain access through a glass turnstile.
All students will also have access to the Resource Center, which will house supplies and copying services.
The Undergraduate Student Government and other student governments will use the Senate Chambers on the second floor. The room was modeled on the Ohio Statehouse, Stuck said, and is equipped with cameras, microphones at every seat and electronic consoles for voting.
Stuck visited 42 student unions at college campuses all over the country during the planning stages. Students from the planning committee visited 11 of them with her.
Students have played a role in everything from the design of the building to the items on the menu at the restaurants, she added.
“Every corridor that you go through, there is a student’s thought there. It just screams that it’s for students,” she said.
The Board of Trustees approved the project in 2004. Previously, a “feasibility study” determined that it was better for the university to completely rebuild rather than to renovate the old Union which had been built in 1951.
Construction began in 2007.
OSU and private donors have paid for some of the $118 million price tag, but students will also be required to pay a quarterly fee for the cost of the project and maintenance.
Beginning this quarter, the fee will be $27, which is a reduced amount, because Coca-Cola agreed to provide funding. However, by fall 2010 the fee will rise to $50 and increase by $3 every quarter until it reaches $62.
Foriska said he understands students’ frustration at having to pay a fee.
But his advice for students is to “come and use the building. Maximize what you get out of it,” he said.
“It’s a great time to be a Buckeye,” he said. “Show me a student union that’s better.”
For a complete list of opening day activities and events visit ohiounion.osu.edu.