Since its beginning, the Student Union has been one of the most utilized buildings on campus. Throughout its history a variety of updates/additions have been needed to keep it in good working order and to meet the needs of its guests. Following is a brief historical perspective of improvements made to the building during its existence:
University president Knapp released a proposal in October 1926 to launch a major campus development program. He recommended a campaign to raise half a million dollars to construct a Student Union and clock tower and to improve and enlarge the athletic facilities. Two hundred thousand dollars for the SU was proposed to meet the increasing student population, a space for a post office, meeting rooms and offices for the Alumni Association.
President Bennett saw the need for a SU as first recognized by President Knapp. He incorporated the Student Union into his 25 year master plan vision which was presented in 1930. The plan called for 25 all-new buildings and enlargement of more than half a dozen of the main campus buildings.
In the spring 1936 Approximately 2,000 students signed a petition urging the construction of the Union.
In the summer 1948, construction of the Union began by Manhattan Construction Company. The unique thing about the Union is it was the first union to be built without the taxpayers’ money. Funds for it were supplied through bonds whose repayment was pledged from dollars collected as a part of the students’ fees, revenue from room rentals, catering services and other sources.
The unofficial opening of the Student Union was September 9, 1950. The event was marked by President Bennett’s annual address to the faculty. Lounges, dance rooms, snack bars, gift shops, bowling alleys and games rooms were scattered throughout the $4.5 million dollar building when it first opened.
In December 1963 a five story addition to the northeast side of the original Student Union added 86,000 square feet. The cost was $2.25 million. The east wing of the north side of the original SU was dedicated in December 1965, expanding the Bookstore, Student Union Theater, a home for the Division of the Student Affairs, offices for University Placement Services and additional conference and meeting room spaces.
A $1 million three level parking garage for 540 vehicles was constructed adjacent to the Student Union Hotel.
A major redesign of the cafeteria to food courts took place in 1978. The redesign included refreshing the dated store fronts and other major redesign features bringing an up-to-date look. This included opening up the first floor space with removal of walls and addition of a glass sunroom.
A $1.5 million in renovations to the SU Bookstore and SU Hotel began in 1986. The redesign included the relocation of textbooks for self-service and the conversion to a fully computerized management system began.
A $2 million bond helped finance the replacement of all windows and an upgrade of many of the electrical systems within the Student Union.
The fourth floor was treated to a complete renovation in 1996. This primarily affected the meeting and conference services areas as the rooms that were renovated were the case studies, exhibit rooms and restrooms.
The Campus Life area, located in the basement, received a remodel in 1997. A large computer lab and organizational meeting spaces were built in the area occupied by the old bowling alley. Student Government Association, the Department of Campus Life and International Students and Scholars also received an update. An information desk also was added to provide a resource for students to receive information about how to become more involved in campus organizations.
In 1998, construction began on the Center for Student Services, also known as the Atrium. The area houses many of the integral student services such as the Office of the Bursar and Undergraduate Admissions. The central design was to create and area that would be a central gathering spot for students and guests. The area opened and was fully operational in 2000.
The largest meeting space in the Student Union, the Ballroom, was renovated in 2000. During the renovation, the beautiful, original wood floor was kept intact.
The French Lounge, Sequoyah Room and Suite 1600 were all updated during 2001-2002. Some of the updates included new furniture, fresh paint and new carpet.
In 2003, a proposal from Student Union Activities Board became a reality. The Big Eight Room, Shamrock Room, Starlight Terrace and Starlight Room, all located on the fourth floor, received renovations providing for better programming space. This included a game room, lounge area and a performance stage.
The Student Union Theater, which seats 500 people, received an important update in 2004. All of the theater chairs were replaced and a new curtain was installed.
Also in 2004, the south side of the Food Court went through a total renovation. The renovation included the addition of the Java Dave's/Subs. Etc. counter as well as a new restaurant option, Taco Mayo.
In 2006, it was the north side of the Food Court turn to receive an update. New dining concepts were introduced as well as others were "refreshed." The general area was opened up to allow for more traffic and additional cash registers were installed to better accomodate the increase in traffic.
The Student Store, located on the first floor, received and update in 2005. This included expanding the retail shopping area to allow for increased product offerings. New, larger windows were also installed providing a better sight line into the store and to update the store's presence in the hallway. At the same time, the Bookstore also received some updates including an expanded shopping/check-out area and new glass doors.
Increased traffic in the Food Court areas during the past four years made it imperative that additional seating be made available for guests. In 2007 retail space became available and was captured by the Student Union. This space was renovated and allowed the Union to provide much needed additional seating for its growing customer base.
The first floor of the Union continued to be a hotbed of activity for renovation in 2007. Due to popular demand, more retail options were made available with the addition of Chapters book store and the Clinique counter located in the Student Store.