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University: UL Student Union to open next week, construction not yet complete

Megan Wyatt, Daily Advertiser, Jan. 9, 2015


A cafeteria dining area in the new, nearly-completed UL Student Union is pictured Friday, January 9, 2014, in Lafayette, La.(Photo: Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser)

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Student Union will open when students return to classes next week, although construction workers will continue work on the building for about a month.

Bright and modern, the newly renovated and expanded union will serve as the heart of the campus.

"We’re excited to get this thing open to the students," said Garland "Chico" Rodriguez, assistant director of building services for the union. "But not only for the students but to the public as well."

The main dining hall, computer lab, coffee shop, deli, burger bar and conference areas will open to students next week, but the bookstore, post office, theater, ballroom and bursar’s office won’t be ready until February due to unexpected construction delays.

Other punch list items – fixing broken light switches, installing screens, touching up paint – will be going on throughout the building as students explore the new space next week.

Take a tour of the nearly completed University of Louisiana at Lafayette Student Union. The union will open to students Monday, but construction will continue for about a month. Video courtesy of UL Communications and Marketing. UL Communications and Marketing

Trey Lemaire, an electrical engineering senior, had the opportunity to dine in the Cypress Lake Dining Hall Friday as he helped move union office items from a temporary building into their new home.

Lemaire worked in the old union his freshman year before construction began.

"It was kind of boring," he said. "It wasn’t a place to meet. There weren’t really any hanging out spots or anything. Now there’s a computer lounge, a Starbucks and everything. You can meet up with people and find something to do."

His favorite part about the new building is the dining hall, which is located on the second floor of the union with beautiful views of the swamp through floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

"It’s just a lot of big upgrades," Lemaire said.

The total budget for the student union project, which began two years ago, rings in at about $51 million. That includes construction, demolition, architect fees, street reconstruction, furniture and other associated costs.

Students voted to improve the student union through two self-assessed fees.

"This is their building," Rodriguez said. "This is for them."

The university borrowed close to $22 million in bonds and used another $19 million in collected student-assessed fees for the project. That wasn’t enough to cover the project’s cost, so university officials borrowed from the university’s auxiliary budget to pay the difference.

Construction update: What’s happening at UL?

Interactive: UL construction projects

UL administration plans to rent out conference rooms, training areas and ballrooms in the union to the general public as a way to earn money.

"We’re using it as a revenue generator to help us operate," Rodriguez said.

The new student union is situated closer to McKinley Street and further away from the swamp, making space for a grassy courtyard area between the building and Cypress Lake.

Once construction on the union is finished, three older buildings along Hebrard Boulevard that are situated at the swamp’s edge will be torn down. The buildings served as office and storage space during the union renovation.

More: Tearing down to build up UL

Rodriguez expects the demolition to happen by the middle to end of the semester.

The razed area will allow for better viewing of the swamp and student union. One day, the space could house another academic building or parking garage, according to Rodriguez.

But for now, the focus is on the new union.

"It’s a beautiful building," Rodriguez said. "We should be able to do everything we want to do in our building now."

Five things to know

â– The building offers water bottle filling stations to compliment UL’s sustainability efforts.

â– There are more dining options for students, from Starbucks to McAlister’s Express.

â– The original columns from the rear of the original union still stand at the edge of the swamp as a tribute to what once was.

â– There’s a student-pleasing soft-serve ice cream machine in the dining hall.

â– The building’s entrance glows at night with LED lights that change colors.

Source: Chris Welty, spokesman for UL

What’s going in there?

The new student union will be the home to several offices, departments and recreational areas, including:

â– Administration

â– Ballroom

â– University bookstore

â– Cajun card

â– Circulation

â– Conference

â– Dean of students/student affairs

â– Student cashier center

â– Food services

â– Greek affairs

â– International affairs

â– Lounge areas

â– Retail

â– Student Government Association

â– Student Leadership Council

â– Student organizations

â– Support

â– Bayou Bijou Theatre

â– Union offices

â– University Program Council

Source: louisiana.edu

Student Union quick facts

â– Original building construction began: April 1969

â– Original building completion: March 1971

â– Original building square footage: 125,000

â– Original building cost: $3.4 million

â– Funded through: Student self-imposed fee

â– Building remodel began: December 2012

â– Expected completion: February 2015

â– Remodeled building square footage: 178,000

â– Remodel cost: $40 million

â– Funded through: Student self-imposed fees

Source: Bill Crist, UL facilities manager, and louisiana.edu