By Jay Blanton, You know
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees on Friday approved a proposal of up to $25 million to expand dining and student support space at the Gatton Student Center.
- High levels of participation in UK meal plans used at the multiple restaurants in the Student Center, especially Champions Kitchen.
- Plans to continue to strategically increase undergraduate enrollment as part of meeting the state’s workforce needs. The UK saw record first year enrollment this fall with nearly 5,400 total enrollments of over 30,000.
“We put students and their success at the center of everything we do,” said UK Board Chair Robert Vance. “The obvious need to increase the dining capacity of the newly renovated student center underscores our commitment to students and our commitment to serving the entire campus community.”
The renovated and expanded Gatton Student Center opened in 2018 with nearly 380,000 square feet. It includes student organization spaces, student support and lounge spaces, retail options, a state-of-the-art recreation facility, administrative offices, and residential and commercial dining spaces. among other uses.
UK Dining – a partnership between the university and Aramark – offers several dining venues throughout the school. The student center is open seven days a week and is heavily used by the campus and the wider community.
UK executive vice-president for finance and administration Eric N. said on Monday that the meal plans offered by UK Dining were even more popular than expected, including among staff and teachers.
A recently completed feasibility study commissioned by the UK and led by Omni Architects looked at expanding the current Champions Kitchen dining area eastwards towards the car park and the Singletary Center for the Arts.
The study also recommended that it would be more cost effective to go ahead and build a second and third floor above the expanded space which can be fitted out as needed to provide support for students and other services.
“We built the renovated student center with capacity for expansion to meet the needs of our campus students and community as we grow,” Monday said. “The Student Center has become our campus lounge even faster than expected. It is the heart of our campus and has become the central gathering and dining space for much of the community.
“Planning for expansion now demonstrates the power of this partnership,” Monday said. “It allows us to be nimble, think strategically, and act with the needs of our students and our campus always in mind.”
The total cost of the expansion approved by the UK board is $25 million. The council was asked to spend $1 million in British funds. Additional funding will be provided by UK restoration partner, Aramark. This cost will be reflected in Aramark’s current contract with the university.
On Monday, the project, if approved by the Board of Trustees, would also be submitted to the Council on Post-Secondary Education for review, as well as the Capital Projects and Legislative Obligations Oversight Committee. State, which reviews building proposals between legislative sessions.