John Shearer: New UT Student Union Is Definitely Big

Thursday, February 14, 2019 - by John Shearer

I have been saying this for some time, but someone who has not been on the University of Tennessee’s campus in Knoxville in the last 10 or so years might not recognize it with the construction of numerous large new buildings and dorms.

 

And a major building that changes greatly a central part of campus just opened.

 

The second and larger phase of the Student Union was mostly completed late last year, and the university threw open the building’s doors shortly before the start of the spring semester in early January.

 

Sitting alongside Cumberland Avenue where the old University Center sat, the nearly 400,000-square-foot building is quite a gargantuan structure, but one that is designed to meet the students’ minute needs.

 

The first phase closer to the river had opened in the summer of 2015, and it featured a bookstore and Vol Shop for UT items, and two floors of food court offerings with expansive seating areas.

 

The new center features an auditorium and a large open sitting area of comfortable and soft chairs.

Connected to them are countless plug-in units for phones or laptops.

 

The new part also has a Steak ‘n Shake walk-up diner as well as a Rising Roll eatery with sandwiches and salads and other items.

 

The building also has numerous meeting rooms and offices for various student groups and student-support groups, as well as an information desk.

 

Phase II of the Student Union also features a number of spaces saluting the various Tennessee traditions. That includes a seal of the university in a central hallway floor, the words to “Rocky Top” on banners in another window-lined hall leading from the old section to the newly opened wing, a photo of Smokey the mascot, and the Volunteer/Torchbearer Creed.

 

On the outside, the large structure has some Gothic influences inspired by the older buildings on the campus, and it even has an Ayres Hall-like tower with checkerboards.

 

The whole building is an eye-catcher. Students are using it greatly now, and it will likely be a popular place for those wanting to relax or eat before going to a UT football game this fall in Neyland Stadium a short distance away.

 

Jcshearer2@comcast.net

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