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Rebuilt University Center opens at UW-W

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Carla McCann
February 1, 2008
— For 18 months, fences and construction disrupted the heart of UW-Whitewater.

While most of the James R. Connor University Center was being razed and rebuilt, the campus community walked the fence perimeter, trudging up ramps and grumbling about the inconvenience.


But now the complaints have faded in the shadow of a new University Center that recently opened to rave reviews from students.


The building was dedicated today.


The $20.4 million project includes:


-- The Roberta Avonn Fiskum Art Gallery, now featuring an alumni exhibit


-- A convenience store


-- New student involvement complex


-- Recreation center, including pool hall, movie theater and 10-lane bowling alley


-- Summers Auditorium


-- Ballroom


-- Study spaces


-- Meeting rooms


Since the reopening, student Zach Erickson has no need to leave campus, he said.


"There's a lot of things here for students to do," the 18-year-old freshman from Lake Geneva said while doing homework Thursday in a comfortable chair at the center.


In addition, the new center offers a variety of dining areas including the Ike Shaffer Commons, where Kelly Larsen, a 26-year-old junior from Janesville, has rediscovered the pleasure of a home cooked meal.


"I like the Commons," Larsen said. "If you're looking for a home cooked meal, this is the place to go."


Other food shops include:


-- Beans, a coffee and bagel store


-- Coyote Jack's, featuring flame-broiled burgers and chicken


-- Graham Street Café, where a menu includes sandwiches made with artisan breads


-- Tomato Head Red, offering brick oven pizza and classic pepperoni and sausage pizzas


The original University Center was a hodgepodge of building projects from 1958, 1963 and 1988. It had two second floors and three lower levels that didn't connect, said Kim Adams, assistant to the University Center director.


Students often had to walk outside to get from one location to another, Adams said.


The former building infrastructure and technology needed major upgrades.


The new building has brought life back to the heart of campus.


"I guess I go back to the senses—what they'll see, hear, taste and smell. There will be great sounds again, a great hum going on again in the center of campus, the taste of great foods, the smell of coffee and the feeling of excitement from student energy," Adams said.


Kristeen Sodemann, a 19-year-old Fort Atkinson sophomore, noticed the difference.


"Before, the UC didn't have ambiance," Sodemann said. "It does now. I like how the light now comes in the windows."


Choutae Yang, a 19-year-old sophomore from Sun Prairie, now studies at the center.


"I just come in and sit wherever I feel like it," Yang said. "It's open and inviting here."


Center is part of plan to update campus

With the recent reopening of the James R. Connor University Center (UC) on the UW-Whitewater Campus, the university has entered a countdown on a five-year plan to update the campus.


Although the UC is completed, the university still is under construction.


Workmen currently are building a new College of Business & Economics building. The project will be completed in the summer of 2009.


The total cost for the new Business and Economics building will be $41 million.


As the centerpiece of the campus, university leaders said the building will present an image and environment that acknowledges the stature, quality and accomplishments of one of the finest regional comprehensive business programs in the country.


The new facility will have 180,000 square feet to house the instructional, academic support and community service programs for the university.


Adding 50 percent more classroom space, it also will bring campus units together and supply the necessary spaces and atmosphere to facilitate communication, collabor-ation, joint learning and interaction among students, faculty, alumni and industry partners.


Outreach is also a focus of the new building, and it will invite businesses throughout the region to collaborate with the College of Business & Economics in the education of students, in research and on matters directly relevant to their businesses.


The next project will be the construction of two suite-style residence halls, beginning this year. The project, which will offer 450 beds, will be completed in 2010.



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