Long-awaited Student Union opening arrives this week

Posted on Aug 29 2017 - 6:51pm by Ethel Mwedziwendira

The Student Union is set to open its doors to the public this week after missing its Aug. 21 deadline.

With last-minute details to finish, Union workers will continue working through the night and over the next couple of weeks.

Ole Miss Communications is expected to release a statement when the grand opening happens.

While the Student Union is still under construction, the food court portion of the Union is to open this week. The back entrance of the Student Union is to be used. (Photo By Taylar Teel)

“We really expect to push through this as soon as people start getting the word of mouth about the Union being open,” Bradley Baker, director of the Student Union, said.

The facility was scheduled to open the first day of classes, but “unexpected delays” caused the opening date to be pushed a week further.

In an Aug. 17 press release, the university did not mention what caused the delay. However, it addressed ways in which the university is working to have it open to the public.

“The project team is working diligently to ensure the opening of this building maintains the standard of excellence that our university family expects and deserves,” Chad Hunter, associate university architect, said.  

Starting Monday, a soft opening was offered to several university departments offering a tour to Ole Miss Student Affairs, Administration Finance, Facility Management, Student Activities Association, Associated Student Body and more. The purpose of the soft opening served as training for workers so they can be better prepared for the grand opening, Baker said.

Planning for the Union started in 2008 and construction in 2015. The entire building is set to be complete in 2019, costing more than $58 million.

The building is undergoing two phases of renovations, which will nearly double its original size, expanding from 97,000 square feet to 157,000 square feet. The amount of seating will triple to 400 seats for dining.

The brand-new facility is open and inviting, with glass windows all around, subtle colors and high ceilings. It will include a Union ballroom, expected to open in the near future, that will host conventions and other events.

In order to provide students with the best dining experience, staple restaurants set to open include a full-service Chick-fil-A, Panda Express, Qdoba and new additions such as Which Wich and the only McAlister’s Deli on a college campus.

Furniture in the Union was picked out by the students at the end of last semester, according to Baker.

Baker said students should expect to have the opportunity to choose more furniture types toward the phase two renovation, which will have demos for students to try out and see what items they prefer.

Amid rumors of opening dates, the opening date for the entirety of the Union still is in 2019, despite delays.

Baker said there will be some construction still going on these next few days leading up to the grand opening of phase one. Construction will take place after hours; however, a functioning Union is the main priority for students, faculty and visitors.

Visitors on game day will get to experience the newly renovated Union and food options. Baker said the ultimate goal has always been providing for the students.

“Being able to open the venue soon was challenging, but I think students will be able to enjoy all the options,” Baker said. “Not just here at the Union but across campus because it expands what they can access, whether it be at the Pavilion or Luckyday, Rebel Market.”

Meal plans will be available and functioning at all five restaurants for students, faculty and staff.  Students with Rebel 100 will have 100 meals, and Rebel Unlimited Plus 1, Spring Greek Plus 1, Upperclassmen Plus 1 and Upperclassmen Weekday Plus 1 will be available.

Hours of operation will remain normal, opening from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the weekends.

“While there’s still work to be done, we’re proud of what represents our university community and most importantly, our students,” Larry Sparks, vice chancellor of administration and finance, said.