"The next step is to take it (Student Union) to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in April," said Judy Vinson, vice president for student affairs. "And then, assuming that it’s approved by the Coordinating Board, we will break ground around May 1. Then we’ll have a period of about 12 to 13 months of construction.
"If all goes according to schedule and we have good weather, we’re looking at moving in during the summer of 2000," she said. "Everybody is very excited about this."
The 44,000-square-foot Student Union will house a variety of student activities, including a 500-seat theater for live performances and first-run movies, commons area, convenience store, food court with inside and outside dining areas, game room, study areas, multipurpose meeting and study session rooms, and TV lounge. The plans also include space for offices needed to support student activities.
Vinson said the new Student Union will be a venue for campus life.
"It is going to give this university a much larger sense of community. I think it will be a gathering place for students and faculty and staff, and it’ll be the obvious place for programming in events and cultural activities," she said. "We’ll have a much better defined campus life. It’ll be a tremendous support to our student organizations and individual students as well."
The Student Union will be a freestanding building on the south side of campus located inside the covered walkway between the University Ballroom and the Chapel of the Lord’s Prayer. The main entrance will face north toward the center of campus and the grassy area known as the "Quad."
The $7 million project will be funded from student fee reserves, designated tuition and a new Student Union Fee, which students approved in a campus election in March 1997. The fee — $30 per student per regular semester or $15 per student for each summer term — is expected to raise more than $700,000 per year, according to projections based on current enrollment. The fee will not be collected until the Student Union is open for use.
Architects for the project are Marmon Mok of San Antonio, and the contractor is Wilson Construction of McAllen. UTPA students made up a large portion of the task force that worked with architects and engineers in designing the building and deciding on its location.
"I just have to compliment the students who have been working with us on this, because they have been so conscientious. I appreciate their input and their hard work," Vinson said.