The long-awaited renovations that have consumed parts of UCF's Student Union since last fall will offer new restaurants by the end of September.
Steak 'n Shake and a new Qdoba location will open in the second part of phase one, which is scheduled for January 2019, said David Oglethorpe, communications coordinator for the Student Union.
“There are a lot more diverse food options,” Oglethorpe said. “[For example], Which Wich helps by providing a lot of options for the vegetarian and vegan community.”
Additionally, the improved “heart of campus” will feature a student lounge on the first and second floor. Oglethorpe said the new lounge is estimated to be finished in about 18 months from now, which would be in March of 2020.
About 350 new seats will be available for students and faculty to use throughout the Student Union. Many of the seats will be in the new student lounge spaces, Oglethorpe said.
The first floor of the student lounge will be a food court setting, while the second floor will have more seating and power outlets for students to charge their electronics, Oglethorpe said.
“It will be a lot more of a relaxed feeling upstairs,” Oglethorpe said.
Audrey Tavera, UCF senior aerospace engineering major, said she thinks the lounge will be beneficial for students looking for a place to get work done on campus.
“We are kind of scarce on areas where we can sit and actually study and plug in our computers,” Tavera said.
The lounge will add an additional 15,000 square feet to the existing building.
Improvements for UCF's Student Government Association are also in the works. UCF SGA will get a new third-floor suite, complete with an office and senate chambers.
"I've seen the concepts and it looks great," UCF Student Body President Josh Boloña said in a text message on Sunday. "More importantly, this gives us the ability to be innovative with the [soon-to-be former UCF SGA office] space that will be opening up on the second floor."
Oglethorpe said he doesn't know what will replace the former SGA space, which is on the second floor of the Student Union. The new SGA suite is also estimated to be completed in about 18 months from now, Oglethorpe said.
Construction in the Student Union began during the first week of the fall 2017 semester. However, the renovation process has met its share of conflicts. Oglethorpe said whenever there is a large construction project, there will most likely be obstacles along the way.
“There were permitting issues and scheduling delays,” Oglethorpe said. “It’s difficult to finish construction like this on time.”
The entire project will cost about $20 million, with about $16 million coming from Aramark, Oglethorpe said. Aramark is a food service provider, among other things, that provides services to different sectors at UCF such as education and business.
The remaining funds come from alternate sources such as the Activity & Service Fee, which is automatically included in students' tuition. The Activity & Service Fee is $11.67 per credit hour, according to the Activity & Service Fee website.
But Oglethorpe said the entire fee is not being used for the Student Union construction as the fee is also used to fund other departments such as the Office of Student Involvement and SGA. The portion of the Activity & Service Fee used accounts for $4.5 million of the Student Union construction budget, he said.
The renovations will also upgrade on-site bathrooms. A gender-neutral bathroom, a mother’s room for breastfeeding and larger men’s and women’s bathrooms to support event crowds are all coming to the first floor of the Student Union.
Improvements will also be made to the reflection room, which is used for relaxation and religious purposes.
The reflection room is on the first floor of the Student Union near the Pegasus Ballroom. It will feature a new foot-washing station for the Muslim community. The new bathrooms and reflection room are slated to open in January 2019, Oglethorpe said.
“It’s UCF respecting every religion,” said Rahul Kapoor, UCF junior computer science major. “It’s enhancing diversity. It’s encouraging students, like encouraging people from different diversities to come forward. That’s amazing.”
Oglethorpe said those in charge of the Student Union construction are also aiming for a bronze Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
The LEED rating determines the sustainability of a building based on a variety of factors such as amount of water and construction materials used. These factors, as well as using LED bulbs and other plans to optimize natural light, are being monitored, Oglethorpe said.
“There was half the [student] population [at UCF] when the Student Union was built,” Oglethorpe said. “We wanted a better place for students to relax, a better place to eat and a better place to come to campus.”