Ferris State University welcomes the opening of the new University Center on Monday, Jan. 12.
The new building, located in the heart of campus, features spaces for meetings, socializing, studying and relaxing. It also includes a variety of food, entertainment and retail venues. The renovated facility replaces the former Rankin Student Center.
The doors officially open for the public on Monday, Jan. 12; however, community members, faculty, staff and students have been able to visit and try out the venues this week. The University Center project is mostly complete. A few minor items need to be finished in the next two to three weeks. The renovation project has added 500 new parking spaces that were built as part of access to the building.
“It’s been a dream of the campus for about 20 years and it became a priority when President (David) Eisler came to campus,” said Mike Hughes, Associate Vice President for Physical Plant.
“The concept of the building is really to be like a living room for the campus – a place for students to hang out, a place for the students and the community eat and meet,” he said.
The project included input from every segment of the university: faculty, staff, students and community members.
A highlight of the building is the unique dining area called the Quad Café, which includes an all-you-can-eat cafeteria-style section and a food court section with a diverse section of food options including, but not limited to, burgers, Asian food, Mexican food and frozen yogurt, all brought together in a 6,000-square-foot area.
The new Quad Café provides something for everyone.
“We want any visitor to campus to have a great taste in their mouth about Ferris,” said Lori Helmer, Director of Dining Services.
Several open-floor cooking areas allow students to watch as their food is prepared. Plus, a new seating layout, which includes both family-style seating and small individual areas, will encourage student interactions and provide areas to study.
According to Helmer, the Rock Café will continue its normal dining services, but will now hopefully have less congestion with the new dining facilities at the University Center.
“The Quad Café will complement the Rock Café,” she said.
Other renovations include an upgrade to the building enclosure and interior finishes as well as replacement of furniture, fixtures and equipment. Plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems were also upgraded with energy efficient systems.
The $34 million project took about three years from planning through construction. The Christman Company construction management firm handled the renovation project, based on designs from Neumann/Smith Architects to create a modern-style building. The former Rankin Student Center was originally constructed in 1957, with subsequent additions in 1960 and 1987.
“This is the finished product, which was part of President Eisler’s vision,” said Mark Schuelke, University Center director.
The finished building also includes several fireplaces. Above the main fireplace is repurposed limestone off of the Masselink residence halls and the clock is a replica of the original.
“It was repurposed to keep some of our history in the facility,” Schuelke said.
The University Center is not just a place for the university community, but it’s also a place for the greater Big Rapids community.
“This facility was set up to be a University Center, so that doesn’t just mean Ferris. The facility is accessible to the greater Big Rapids community. For example, you have the dining area, the Barnes and Nobles bookstore and Starbucks,” Schuelke said.
There will be other upcoming events to celebrate the opening on the University Center including a student grand opening on Friday, Jan. 16 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and the ribbon cutting ceremony will be on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 11 a.m.
For more information on the University Center, please visit here.