History of the Student Union
FAU opened its doors for the first time in the fall of 1964 with only 713 students. By the fall of 1969 FAU had 4,338 students enrolled for classes and early university projections were forecasting 7,300 students attending by 1975. For the most part of its early history Florida Atlantic University was thought of as a commuter university, so limited consideration was given to the establishment of facilities offering student services. With increasing enrollment early program design on the new University Center began in March of 1969. During these early years (1964 1969) continuous student growth marked the development of resident housing facilities with a capacity for 1,100 students and these facilities opened in September of 1969. The need for a campus community center for both residential and commuter students became even greater as enrollment increased, as curricula increased, as faculties enlarged and the emerging upper-division graduated. As this happened FAU began to assume its formal and informal role of producing effective graduates. During this period over 40 clubs and organizations emerged needing meeting space, in addition, to the merits of student-faculty relationships in thoughtful discussions, during periods of recreation and while eating together, called for a facility to foster such experiences. The purpose of this new facility would be a common meeting place for students, staff, alumni and friends of the University to interact, with provisions for lounging, eating, recreation and dialogue. Not only would this campus family room be a headquarters for student activities and student government, but its Lounges, Meeting Rooms, Rathskeller, Game Room, and Snack Shop would serve as a hub for students, faculty, staff, alumni and campus visitors.
Total construction costs for Phase I of the University Center totaled $2.02 million. Construction on the 55,000 square foot structure began in May 1971 and was completed in early September 1972. The new facility included administrative / student offices, five Meeting Rooms, Lounge Space, Snack Bar, Game Room, Bookstore, TV-Reading Room, Lobby and Information / Snack Shoppe. A dedication ceremony was held in October 1972.
Subsequent to the completion of Phase I of the University Center an outdoor stage area was completed in 1973. This area was able to accommodate 3,000 5,000 people on lawn seating (no chairs) and had a covered stage measuring 32 x44. This area was used for concerts, dances, lectures, field days and other outdoor activities weather permitting.
In June 1979, the staff and students of the University Center, once again, met with the University Architect to begin planning for the next addition to the University Center (Phase II). This addition built a 2,400 fixed seat auditorium adjacent to the existing facility and included a Projection Room, Dressing Rooms, and additional meeting rooms. As with the initial planning, students were actively involved. The groundbreaking ceremonies were held December 1980 and the facility was dedicated in September 1982. Total construction costs for this project were $2.69 million and added another 41,000 square feet to the existing facility.
The Rathskeller opened in 1972, following the opening of the University Center. It began as a Snack Bar and Ratskeller operation, but the Snack Bar was unsuccessful. In 1974 the Snack Bar was abolished, and its space was taken over by an enlarged Ratskeller operation. A pub atmosphere prevailed, with occasional entertainment in the evenings. After more than ten years of heavy use this area needed a complete makeover. Construction began in May of 1985 and was completed in January of 1986. Total renovation costs for this project was $730,000. The majority of this project dealt with the remodeling of the Ratskeller, the Main Lobby Area, which included the Information/Snack Shoppe, and Ticket Office. Additional improvements to the second floor office and meeting were also made at this time. A gift from Forrest Haines and supplemental funding from the FAU Foundation allowed for the construction of the Canopy Project that provided a covered walkway for drop-off from the University Center to the south parking lot. Construction costs for this project totaled $112,039.
March of 1987 saw the completion of two program requests calling for renovation to the Auditorium and University Center. Architectural plans were drawn and work was expected to commence in the summer of 1989. During this same period Student Government had a vision of building a new Student Union and CITF (Capital Improvement Trust Fund) funding was reallocated to this project. Expansion and renovation to the University Center and Auditorium was cancelled and the scope of the interior renovation reduced with limited funding. Local funding was eventually secured for and upgrades to the UC Auditorium equipment (Sound & Lighting) began in 1991 and completed in 1992 for a cost of $320,000.
With cost estimates in the range of $12-$15 million plus the added years to properly fund the project, Student Government in 1994 reconsidered its decision to build a new facility. Instead they authorized the reallocation of the initial funding of the project to enhance student services in the existing facility. This included complete renovation of the Second Floor and Main Lobby Area of the UC and the construction of the 7,000 square Foot Live Oak Pavilion. The project started in April of 1995 and was completed in January 1997and cost approximately $3.2 million.
The latest addition and renovation to the University Center cost about $8 million and increased the size of the UC by 55,000 square feet, an increase of 40%. This addition included a 380-seat Resident Dining Hall and full service kitchen, conference/meeting rooms and a new main retail corridor. This includes a Convenience Store, Hair Salon, Travel Office and Commuter/TV Lounge and Student Study Lounge. The renovated areas included space for the Ratskeller's replacement Wackadoo's Grub & Brew, Loading Dock Improvements. Construction for this project started November 2000 and dedication ceremonies were held on April 11, 2002.