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January 6, 2003

University Center to hold grand opening on Jan. 30

By Jim Burns

A center for UCSC faculty and staff will open in late January in a new and spacious facility above the Colleges Nine/Ten Dining Commons. The University Center will provide restaurant and lounge services on weekdays in addition to attractive space for meetings, small conferences, and other special events.

Photo of University Center dining room

The University Center is above the Colleges Nine/Ten Dining Commons. Top photo: Karen Kroslowitz; bottom photo: Gary Parker

Photo of University Center from outside

Built as part of the Colleges Nine/Ten construction project, the center will officially open its doors on Thursday, January 30. During grand-opening festivities that day, UCSC employees are invited to come to the center between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., for a complimentary sampling of food from the restaurant's menu. There will be drawings for prizes at the event. (A late-afternoon event, originally scheduled, has been postponed until the center can obtain a liquor license.)

In addition to attracting current faculty and staff, the center is envisioned as a place that will attract retired employees, UCSC alumni, UCSC Foundation trustees, and the many others who are involved in the operation of the campus, as well as campus visitors.

"The opening of a University Center will provide the people who work at or support UCSC in some way with a much-needed place to interact," said Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood. "On a campus such as ours, a central gathering place like the one provided by this new, wonderful center enhances the sense of community that is so essential to university life."

A center where faculty, staff, alumni, and others could meet has been a dream on campus since 1983, when the first of three committees was formed to develop such a facility. The original location recommended was adjacent to the former Student Center on the north edge of the Great Meadow. But, for reasons that ranged from land use to finances, the center was not built. At least, that is, until the third committee, convened by the Academic Senate in 1998 and chaired by chemistry professor Roger Anderson, settled on the current location.

Since then, the idea of a center has been gaining momentum on campus, and University House has served as an interim location for the center's monthly lunches for more than two years. Martha Keeler, who is serving as the facility's acting manager, said between 50 and 75 faculty and staff have participated in each of the scheduled meals.

Having a place of its own, however, will enable the center to serve lunches on a daily basis (weekdays when the campus is open), from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The lounge, which will feature a full-service bar, is initially scheduled to be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays; hours will be extended as business warrants. The lounge and restaurant will be open additional hours on weekdays and on weekends for scheduled special events.

In fact, the center is expected to provide an important venue for a number of special events. UCSC's Alumni Association, for example, has already made plans to host its quarterly Alumni Council meetings in the new facility. It also may wind up as a popular location for weddings and private parties, and the use fees from such activities are counted on to help offset the center's operating expenses.

While parking is very limited at Colleges Nine/Ten, the center's central campus location is expected to make the facility accessible to a large number of employees, Keeler said. "Parking has become pretty challenging throughout the campus, and we're not advising people to drive to the center expecting to find a parking space," she said. "But we think there may be a large number of faculty and staff who want to get together with friends and coworkers for a restaurant-quality lunch, for example, but don't want the hassle of leaving campus."

The "Perimeter" campus shuttle and Metro buses drop off and pick up passengers on a regular basis on McLaughlin Drive adjacent to Collegse Nine/Ten (on the north side) and the Health Center (on the south side). "We think people will find that it is much quicker to catch a shuttle or bus for a lunch outing at the center than it is to take the time to drive off campus and spend time looking for a parking space when they return," Keeler said.

While the center is designed primarily to accommodate UCSC populations not served by newly opened student facilities (refurbished Student Union for undergraduates; new Commons for graduate students), the University Center will be open to the general public. "We think it will be a place where faculty, staff, alumni, and others will want to bring their off-campus guests for lunch, a drink, or for any kind of social or business meeting," Keeler said.

Memberships may be purchased to the center, entitling holders to discounts on food and beverage service, invitations (and no-cost admission) to an array of special events planned for the center, priority for booking the facility for private events, and a discounted fee for such bookings.

"While faculty, staff, and other people can certainly eat or drink at the center without being members, the membership benefits should be a real draw for a number of users," Keeler said.

For the first year of opening only, Charter Memberships are available for $1,000. Charter Members will have their name permanently engraved on a donor wall in the center and will be extended other privileges and benefits. Other membership levels are also being established.

For information about the range of memberships, please call Keeler at (831) 459-4321; for information about Charter Memberships, please call Jennifer Wood in University Relations at (831) 459-2489.

A fundraising campaign to build the center has realized more than $400,000 to date and has included significant contributions from UCSC Foundation trustees; the Alumni Association; Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood, Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor John Simpson, and other faculty; and numerous other individuals and businesses.

Information on the center is also available online.

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