Union remains open as renovations continue

A construction worker applies glue to the floor of the K-State Student Union for new carpet to be laid on Jan. 18, 2015. (George Walker | The Collegian)

Students and staff returning to campus for the first week of classes will be greeted by the familiar sight of construction, especially with the renovations to the K-State Student Union at the heart of campus.

The site that once housed Caribou Coffee will now be the location of Radina’s Coffeehouse and Roastery. As construction takes place on the food court, food trucks will be in the Bosco Student Plaza during lunch hours, and Subway will continue to operate.

The Union renovation is scheduled for completion in December 2016, according to Bill Smriga, executive director of the Union. Contracts with the new restaurants that will occupy it have have yet to be signed; however Smriga said there are verbal agreements in place while the final details are negotiated.

In addition to Radina’s and Subway, the Union will include Panda Express, Qdoba Mexican Eats, Just Salads, Call Hall Ice Cream Shop, Chick-fil-A and a sports bar and grill.

Other student services, such as Commerce Bank, the Copy Center and the Union Bowling Center will also remain open.

“We worked really hard to continue operating all student services,” Smriga said.

Once complete, the Union will include improved, renovated and enlarged facilities, Smriga said. There will also be new lounges for students and an information desk for visitors.

According to the K-State website, the Student Governing Association decided to renovate the Union to “develop a solution that will address the Union’s structural deficiencies as well as the needs of a growing student body.”

The additional lounges and extra space that will be added in the renovations are to help serve the needs of the growing student body. As for the Union’s “structural deficiencies,” a lot of work is being done on the building’s infrastructure, including the roof, windows, heating and air conditioning, plumbing and electric, Smriga said.

The Union was built in 1956, and according to Smriga, the last renovations were done in the early 1990s.

The project was originally expected to cost $25 million, but Smriga said it will now cost $31 million. The majority of the expenses are funded by a $20 per semester increase to the student privilege fee for students attending the Manhattan campus. There are also other sources of funding. Follett Higher Education Group, the company that runs the bookstore in the Union, is providing $1 million for the renovations, Smriga said.

The student body voted to approve the project in April 2013, and the fee was instituted in fall 2014. The renovations are using a 30-year bond.

For some students, the promise of a better Student Union cannot make up for the added difficulties of navigating the construction.

“(The Union) was really hard to navigate because there were walls there that didn’t use to be there last semester,” Ben Walberg, freshman in business administration, said. “It was also difficult to find a bathroom because the main-floor men’s bathroom was closed … and the bookstore was really confusing because you have to pick up your books somewhere else.”

For Keneysha McKinney, freshman in sports marketing and an employee of the Union Bookstore, the renovations complicate her job.

“As an employee, it makes stuff harder because the customer gets upset that they have to go to different places …” McKinney said. “It’s nice that they have food trucks, but the time isn’t always convenient. It’s good that (the Union) is getting remodeled because it’s new. I like that.”

Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.