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Students, guests eat in style
in new South Campus dining hall
January 25, 1999

The University's sparkling new South Campus dining hall and banquet facility, which set records every day during its first week for the number of lunches and dinners served in a single facility, will celebrate its grand opening February 5 with a ribbon-cutting, tours, and a gala banquet.

Students from the new South Campus residence halls began eating in the dining hall, the latest UConn 2000-funded building to come on line, when they returned to campus January 19 for the start of the spring semester. Those about 660 residents had company, however - more than 800 other students, as well as curious faculty and staff, who swelled the first few nights of service to more than 1,500, topping the previous record of slightly more than 1,200 set when a new dining hall opened at North Campus several years ago.

"It's a beautiful facility, and it's wonderful to see people coming from across campus to enjoy it," says Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor for student affairs. "It's an excellent example of the positive transformation the campus is undergoing."

What's more, "this is only the beginning," she says, adding that more than $100 million will be dedicated to restoring the luster of the campus's other dormitories during the next decade, starting with the complete renovation of the Northwest residence halls later this year.

Complete with oak wainscoting, seating areas and trim, the 70,443 square-foot building offers the UConn community amenities previously unknown, including a second-floor banquet hall that can accommodate 700 people simultaneously or be divided into a variety of configuration s, from seven rooms seating about 100 people to numerous possibilities in between.

The hall also includes a glass-enclosed rotunda that offers views of the northeastern Connecticut hills beyond the University's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The first-floor dining area, which also seats 700, features a marketplace arrangement with a series of stations serving Chinese food, pizza, pasta, grilled entrees, deli fixings, dessert, a rotisserie that will serve a variety of meats from chicken to turkey to beef and pork, carved to the customer's liking, and a "comfort" station, serving entrees similar to those served at UConn's other residence halls. Each station is constructed so patrons can watch their food being prepared.

Stations serving soup, salads, drinks, condiments and UConn ice cream are scattered around the serving area.

The ground floor features a small deli for late-night snacking, a game room with billiard, ping-pong, and football tables as well as four 20-inch and one 60-inch television, a computer room with 20 terminals, and a large community room that, like the meeting areas on the second floor, can be rented by campus groups.

"To be in a brand new building with hundreds of smiling students. It's just great," says Denise Beal, the complex coordinator for food services.

Larry Schilling, University architect, says last-minute jobs in the building's interior will be completed before the February 5 dedication, and brickwork and other external work should be completed, including the removal of construction trailers, snow fencing and the last remaining piles of earth that mark the area as a construction site.

The February 5 celebration, timed to coincide with Winter Weekend, begins with a 3 p.m. dedication ceremony, reception and tours of the building. At 7 p.m., an international fashion show will be held in the multi-level dining room and, from 8 p.m. until midnight, a semi-formal gala, featuring music, dancing, hors d'oeuvres and non-alcoholic refreshments will be held.

Meanwhile, across campus, a variety of Winter Weekend activities will be taking place, including a disco dance in the Student Union Ballroom, a one-ton sundae from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on the Student Union Mall, a comedy show, movies and the Student Union Board of Governors' Caffeine Cafe, from 8-10 p.m. in the Student Union lobby.

All events except the movies are free and all are open to the community.

Richard Veilleux