A central part of a college community’s life will soon be facilitated in the heart of the Eastern Kentucky University campus.
A “topping out”’ ceremony on Thursday, March 23, marked a milestone in the construction of a new dining hall at EKU. The three-story, 55,000-square foot facility is under construction on the site formerly occupied by the Case Hall and Annex and is expected to begin serving students, faculty, staff and visitors in January 2018.
The University and Aramark Educational Services LLC signed a $37 million agreement last year that called for the food services vendor to finance and construct the dining facility and provide dining services for the campus for the next 15 years. A recently enacted student fee will finance renovations to the adjacent Powell Building, current home of dining facilities, for use as a student union facility. The same fee will also finance a new recreation center nearby. The additions and renovations are all part of an ongoing campus revitalization initiative designed to transform the living and learning experience at EKU.
After members of the campus community signed a beam to be placed atop the new dining hall, EKU President Michael Benson addressed those gathered for the ceremonial occasion.
“The time was right ... and it all came together,” Benson said. “Aramark made an investment in EKU, and we made an investment in Aramark. This is an investment in our future and an investment in our students. We’re going to see new life coming to this part of campus.
“The food element is an integral component of a living-and-learning community. Think about the conversations that will happen around dining tables, the opportunities to engage. This is a great day, a maroon-letter day.”
Randy Brookshire, principal with Ross Tarrant Architects, which designed the facility, said the ceremony “means that progress is being made. This is the heart of campus, and I think it will be a real vibrant space.”
The first floor will feature retail food options, with the second floor hosting an all-you-can-eat main dining hall. Offices, small classrooms and a multipurpose room will be located on the top floor. The facility will also include private dining spaces that can be reserved for campus events.
The new dining hall will also feature an energy-efficient design and ample natural light with windows facing the adjacent Memorial Plaza, as well as easy access from several directions.
“Topping out” ceremonies date back to ancient societies, according to Paul Gannoe, associate vice president for facilities services and capital planning at EKU, who also spoke at the event. A similar ceremony was held across the street in August 2015 for phase 2 of the University’s New Science Building, which is now nearing completion. When both phases of joined, it will be the largest science facility on any campus in Kentucky.