Changes Might Come to Union Food Court

By Kayla Nunez
The Razorback Reporter

The Arkansas Union food court might be getting an upgrade in the spring semester of 2018, pending approval in November by the Board of Trustees, causing people on campus to find alternatives to the food court.

There would be temporary dining options during the renovations including food kiosks inside the Union and a food truck on the Union mall, said Lynne Bell, assistant vice chancellor of business services and student affairs.

“The last major renovation of the food court was in 1998,” Bell said.

Bell said there have been a few different focus groups and surveys over the past several semesters which get feedback from students, faculty and staff on plans for the Arkansas Union food court renovations. 

The estimated cost for the food court renovation is $5 million, Bell said.

The renovation plans include expanding Chick-fil-A, adding more food options such as pasta and made-to-order salads, and resolving the issue of long lines.

“Each concept will have its own cash station to help expedite check-out,” Bell said. “Students are fed up with the food lines.”

U of A senior Rickala Purnell said there are long lines at the food court any time she’s there. 

“I go there occasionally but I would probably go more if they resolved the issues with the long lines,” Purnell said. 

The surveys and focus groups done by the university found that some customers thought the current layout of the food court was confusing and had a hard time finding things such as utensils.  The plans for the new layout would fix this issue.

“The new layout will be more open and more easily viewed from the entry outside,” Bell said. 

The number one request from students is breakfast at Chick-fil-A.  The plans do include adding breakfast. 

The Chick-fil-A corporate office sent someone to the U of A on Tuesday, Sept. 28, to give ideas on what can be done to the Chick-fil-A in the Union food court and what has worked for other college campuses. 

There are a couple more plans for the Union that will be requested at the Board of Trustees meeting, Bell said.  Those plans include re-carpeting the ballroom and replacing three heating and air conditioning units. 

The cost of the food court renovations, the re-carpeting and the heating and air conditioning unit replacements would be expensive but Bell doesn’t have an exact price yet.  She said an architect and contractor will come in soon to go over the plans and then the university will have an exact price.

The renovations will not increase student fees, Bell said.  Chartwells agreed to invest some money in the project and the rest will come from the facility fee. 

Rob Stagni, director of the Arkansas Union, said that space in the building is limited.

“This building is pretty packed to the gills,” Stagni said.    

Plans to add on to the building have been discussed and brought forward by the Associated Student Government but there is no money to do that project at the moment, Stagni said.

“We always hope that’s in the future,” Stagni said.  “We’re going to have to make the most of what we have at the moment.”

If the plans for the renovations are approved by the Board of Trustees in November, construction will most likely begin in the spring of 2018 and be completed by the fall of 2018, Bell said.

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