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Part 2: Ideas for the Student Union Expansion/Renovation




The last entry was getting a little long (they're all a little long) so I split this into two entries.

As you remember from last time, the proposed Student Union renovation/expansion (on hold for funding at the moment) should include expanding dining options, a new banquet hall for student organizations, student media complex, 24-hour computer lab and enhanced performance space. The overall cost would be approximately $17M.

Right now FAU has talked to students and then had an outside consultant draw up diagrams showing proposals for how the space could be laid out. It's not the same as a definitive architectural layout and there are no renderings publicly available yet.

From what I understand, students are assessed fees (approximately $5 per credit hour) statewide that are placed into the Capital Improvement Trust Fund (CITF). This money accumulates and then every 4(?) years it becomes available to bond for construction projects (like a Student Union). The project lists are submitted and lobbied to the State Legislature who, along with Governor Rick Scott, have to sign off on them. As you might expect, this is a very political process and sometimes certain people strike-through your line items with a thick, dark pen line saying, "not at this time."

So we're in a holding pattern. The upside to this is that we have some more time to flesh out the idea so when the money does come in, we can build something pretty great.

In the interim I'd like to throw some ideas in the hat…

RE: dining options
I'd think the biggest target should be a Chick-fil-A as students were massively disappointed when Chick-fil-A came and went after only the first football game. Additionally, since Chartwells has to pay for and operate it, they obviously prefer a brand that falls under their umbrella, and since Chartwells is a national corporation providing food services (including Chick-fil-A) on many college campuses already, they could easily open one here at FAU. Chartwells might be hesitant about opening up a Taco Bell since one of their concerns is about serving halfway-healthy food and Taco Bell is… you know. I also don't think FAU would consider a sports bar-type place (e.g. Chilis Too, which has been springing up on college campuses) because they don't want to compete with The Burrow Bar&Grill in the same building.

However, I wonder if that would extend to something like Steak'n'shake, which in theory would provide burgers and shakes until late. Everybody - including myself - claims we need a late night restaurant on campus but you have to consider the potential demand vs operating costs, right: of the people living on campus, how many of them are really going to patronize a S&S at 2 in the morning, and will the profit margin be enough to cover the expenses of staffing it? When I go to eat at S&S in 2 in the morning, it's usually just me and one other table. Will it be that way at FAU? Would non-students come on to campus to use it? I think it's worthy of consideration and I think Chartwells should send out some surveys asking what restaurant, if any, would they be willing to visit after 10 pm when the rest of stuff on campus closes down.

RE: improvements to Barry Kaye auditorium
I once asked Brian Kientz, former director of the Student Union, if it would be possible to show new-ish movies in the Barry Kaye. A number of universities show a handful of movies (for instance, right now UF is showing World War Z, Bling Ring, the Conjuring, etc) in dedicated movie theater spaces on campus and they show them maybe 6 times each over the course of a week or two, then they switch them out for new movies. He said that the Barry Kaye wasn't really equipped to do something like that primarily because of acoustic issues, so I'd really like to see the Barry Kaye improvements make this a reality so we can show movies there.

Now, the logical place to show movies would be Living Room Theaters but because they're consistently showing movies on their own schedule, it might be difficult to fit in 4+ showings of our movies a day (it would cut into their revenue). Additionally, and I don't know how stringent this is, but when LRT was first built President Brogan promised that "blockbuster movies" would not be shown there and it would not be a threat to the Cinemarks and the iPics of Boca.

There *is* another dedicated movie theater space on campus, believe it or not, in the Business building. on the north side of the building there's a separate entrance to the area for motion picture business. As you walk in, there are movie posters and a staircase leads you up to a small theater which is used for… who knows? I passed that information along to Program Board at the time, who looked into it, found out they could use it to show movies there and they... never did, for some reason.

They have shown movies all over campus though. RSA does it, Program Board does it, sometimes it's inside in a large meeting room, sometimes a classroom, sometimes its a drive-in movie in Lot 5…. so the interest is there. Making it possible in Barry Kaye means we can show it in a guaranteed location every time with comfortable seating.

EDIT 10/3: This has already been implemented and they've shown several movies in there. Good work FAU!


RE: Game Room
If the Game Room plans go through as planned, they'll be good enough, honestly. But I really think there's an opportunity here to "take it to the next level." While a lot of schools have game+TV setups or outright arcade machines, I'd like to see the installation of 2 projectors so you can play Halo or Smash Brothers against your friends on a giant 8'x8' screen. Having done this personally, I can say it's an incredible experience that would definitely attract more people to the Union; you can sit around and play games with your friends in your dorm but nobody is going to have their video games set up on projector in their dorm room.

Additionally at the west end of the Grand Palm Room I could see a mini-bowling setup like this.

RE: Lobby centerpiece
We talked previously about how the lobby redesign might include a tiled floor with the FAU logo in the center. Alternatively, FAU is considered an owl statue. Both of these are good ideas, don't get me wrong, but I think we might consider a big saltwater tank in the center that would have an owl statue among the coral. Not only would it add a nice ambiance to the lobby, students could relax on couches and watch the fish in their downtime between classes.

Further down the line we could consider:

- 2-story replacement of the bookstore. A good place for this would be the northeast corner near the intersection of Volusia St and Dade Ave.
- expanded Health Services Center which could include emergency, family medicine, OB/GYN, imaging, pharmacy and optical services.
- an all-inclusive academic advising center, so all the advisers would be in one location. one adviser actually told me this would be the ideal situation for students.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to the eventual renovation of the Student Union, whenever it happens. Going forward, I think we need to consider how to consolidate more essential student services in the Union rather than spreading them out along the Breezeway. If we want the Union to truly be the primary focal point of student life on campus, we face the uphill battle of changing the culture as well as the facilities to place an increased emphasis on the Student Union. There are certain things that may never change - for instance, student organizations will likely always table in the Breezeway no matter how good the Union is. And I don't foresee them ever closing the Breezeway Cafeteria, especially not to rebuild it over at the Union. But we can certainly move over advising, healthcare services, the bookstore and provide more entertainment options there so people feel like they have more of a valid reason to "walk all the way over there from the Breezeway."

GO OWLS!

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