New plans are being made to help improve student dining services

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

Administrators are analyzing how The Union is going to meet the dining needs of the proposed 400-bed residence hall on the southeast side of campus.

The current proposal that must be approved by the Board of Regents (BOR) at its next meeting includes adding dining space, integrating creative food options, introducing a service center, renovating The Union kitchen and expanding hours of operation. A dining committee is also looking at renovating Larson Commons.

Marysz Rames, vice president for student affairs, presented one of the latest versions of the dining services expansion plan to students and representatives of leadership groups Nov. 13. The project was originally estimated to cost $5 million, but the new proposal will cost between $6 to $7 million. The extra funds will most likely come from auxiliary dining resources without an increase in student fees, said Rames.

As long as the new plan meets the BOR’s approval on Dec. 18 and 19, construction will start this summer. The additional dining areas are expected to open along with the new residential hall in the fall of 2010.

“We need to move the dining project as quickly as possible,” said Rames.

“We kill the residential hall project if we don’t do it.”

The 400 people projected to fill the new residence hall are going to need someplace to eat, the vice president said.

The current plan is to expand The Union on the northwest side. Administrators want to add two new dining areas, accommodating a total of 350 to 375 students. Rames said the committee is exploring a sports grille and a possible Panera Bread-like sandwich shop to give students more variety.

Another area students have expressed interest in is a service center. Officials are exploring this concept, which would allow outside retailers and service providers to rent out a place in The Union. Rames said this area could include a dry cleaner, hair salon, movie rental, bank or regional gift shop. Surveys will be distributed to find out which services students want most.

With the two added dining areas, congestion in The Market should be reduced. Rames said though The Market is not receiving new tables and chairs due to budget concerns, the servery will be moved farther apart so students have more room.

“The biggest problem with the servery is the congestion,” said Susanna Marking, a graduate student and the Students’ Association’s administrative assistant, in the meeting. “I think with this plan that problem will be solved.”

The dining services master plan also includes improvements to Larson Commons. The $536,000 project will give Larson Commons new carpet and furnishings, minor servery changes and some kitchen improvements.

Along with improving dining service facilities, Rames said Student Affairs is looking at expanding hours of operation. She said Student Affairs and Aramark are talking about providing food until midnight or later. The sports grille may be another late night option for students.

“With the branding concepts and the late night concepts ? I feel we’re hitting all the marks with this project,” said Rames.

Students present at the Nov. 13 meeting agreed.

“This project is very needed from an operations standpoint and will give Aramark more space to provide more quality,” said John Zierke, a Students’ Association senator and union manager.

Marking said she was glad the “fresh new ideas, fresh new looks and fresh new feels” will give students more options.

“It’s happening very fast, but it’s good for SDSU,” she said.