The University of Tennessee’s new Student Union building is now open after nine years of construction.
The new Student Union replaces the old Carolyn Brown Memorial University Center building which was built in 1954. The old center, commonly known as the UC. was demolished in 2012.
In June 2015, UT opened its doors after completing work on phase one of the new Student Union. It houses a new Vol Shop that has doubled in size, bookstore, technology store, and dining with more options and almost triple the seating. It also has an updated career services office with newer technology and more space.
There was a sense of adventure on Monday as students explored the three floors of the newly opened Student Union. The university will hold an official grand opening on Friday, March 29.
“All the windows, it’s so nice. All the natural light,“ said UT Freshman, Faith Belt.
The 400 square foot project took nearly nine years to complete. It will now serve as a central spot for offices focusing on students everyday such as the Office of the Dean of Students, Office of Sorority and Fraternity life, Student Government Association, among others.
“I love it. It’s been so fun and it’s like watching people pass through an amusement park because this facility has been in the works and is very much a labor of love for so long,“ said Student Union Director Ian Crone
There are roughly two dozen meeting spaces, a 1,000 seat auditorium, a ballroom, catering kitchen, two restaurants, a U.S. Post Office branch, a passport processing center, and a rec area for students to take a break.
“What this building is really about, is about an opportunity to further enhance our sense of community on campus because everybody gets to use this building. So for me, we’re using bricks and mortar to really try and provide an opportunity for students, faculty, staff and community members to come together,“ said Vice Chancellor for Student Life Vincent Carilli.
This is the university’s largest project to date and we’re told a transition task force was created to make sure it opened on schedule.
“We started meeting a year ago to plan on getting into the facility, to make sure all the furniture and fixtures arrived. We had it down to when delivery trucks were going to arrive,“ said Executive Director of Auxiliary and Support Services Brian Browning.
Leaders at UT say in total the Student Union cost $180 to $185 million. UT is training more than 100-student staff members to work at the newly opened facility.
“It’s got a lot of nooks and crannies for studying and I think it’ll be a really good service for students to use,“ said freshman Josh Miller.
“But if you notice down there on the first floor, some of those couches are arranged in a T shape, says we take a lot of pride in our university and go down to the smallest of details that people may not even notice,“ added freshman Logan Miller.
A piece of history serves as a welcome for those walking into the Student Union, the seal from the old Student Center has been placed in the walkway.