Wearing green construction hats, University of North Texas officials had a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new student union project Friday.
Throughout the summer, construction crews have been gradually moving offices and services out of the old union building in preparation for the project.
Although preliminary work has started on the building to prepare now-vacated sections for abatement, the construction isn’t expected to be fully underway until the week of Oct. 7, said Don Lynch, director of system facilities and administration.
For Friday’s event, the Library Mall outside of the current union was outfitted with tents, tables and a large stage. A free lunch was served to students, faculty and staff members and free T-shirts were available.
Representatives from the student body, administration and staff spoke about the project and what it means for the Denton campus.
Chancellor Lee Jackson said getting the project approved by the state was a difficult task, even with overwhelming student support. State officials questioned whether a union would be used by modern students and asked if the university could raise more in donations, Jackson said.
“I just finally convinced them that you can have a university without a union, but it wouldn’t be a university community. It would be a collection of office buildings and architecture where people drive, go to class and leave,” he said. “It wouldn’t be a community.
“If you believe in student engagement and you want students to learn more than just technology while at a university, you need a modern union like this one.”
Zach Brown, president of the student government association, said he wants the new union to feel like a second home to students and it has played a vital role in his college experience.
“As a student, I’m really excited that we’re getting a new student union because it’s a big part of our home here at the UNT campus,” Brown said. “This new updated union will give us more space, more food and more entertainment options so we can truly enjoy our time outside of the classroom.”
Jayleen Watson, a student who served as chairwoman of the union planning committee, agreed with Brown in her remarks, and said the union is a place for students to connect and grow together.
Until the union project is completed in the fall of 2015, UNT President Lane Rawlins said that while the construction and temporary buildings may not be ideal, it will help make way for one of the best student unions in the state.
“The university union is the heart of UNT. We’re about to undergo a heart transplant. We’re getting a better heart,” Rawlins said. “Now we’re going to have to live on an artificial heart for a little while, with the tents and bubbles ... but when we get through, this is going to be the best heart of the best university in the state of Texas.”