UCO Breaks Ground for Dining Center

A ground breaking ceremony for the new dining center was held July 11 at the location of the future facility in front of Hamilton Field House at the University of Central Oklahoma. 

The new dining center is planned to be 50,000 sq. ft., compared to Buddy’s 23,500 sq. ft. Approximately 35,000 square feet will be allocated for dining space and approximately 15,000 square feet will be provided for office space on the second floor. 

Charles Johnson, vice president for University Communications, said that while Buddy’s has served UCO as the primary dining hall since 1964, times have changed since then, especially as UCO has gained more students. 

“Buddy’s has served our campus well,” Johnson said.

The concept developed for the new facility required UCO to purchase a section of Ayers Street to allow for the construction of a pedestrian walkway that will connect the north and south ends of campus, according to Johnson.

Part of the reason behind the construction of the new facility is due to the change of student expectations for campus and the change in how UCO’s facilities are being built and utilized, according to Kevin Freeman, vice president of Operations.

The new dining hall will be configured to be much more suitable for dining services on campus and their work, with a 30 percent increase in square footage compared to the previous dining hall, according to Freeman.

Mark Stansberry, chair of the Regional University System of Oklahoma, said it will be very exciting to see students participate in the vision of the new dining hall and he thanked UCO for its commitment to higher education.

“Eighty-eight percent of students that graduate from UCO stay in Oklahoma to contribute to Oklahoma’s economy,” Stansberry said.

He also said that UCO performs a unique role in Oklahoma’s economy by educating and motivating career ready graduates to build connections with Oklahoma City metro partners.

“These partnerships allow us to dream, and then execute the dream,” said UCO President Don Betz. “Of course, the amazing work [is] done by students, who every day make it possible for us not only to realize our own personal goals in terms of education, but also to transform this historic institution.”

Ayers Street is seen as a barrier between the north and south sides of campus, according to Betz, and he hopes that this new dining center will be a place for students to gather, connect and relax. 

The concept for the new building includes structural design elements of iconic UCO structures such as Old North, Thatcher Hall and Murdaugh Hall, as well as a new concept for a wide open space that could become the campus’ new central point, according to Betz. 

“It’s not going to be a dining hall; it’s going to be a point of pride on the campus where we will gather, enjoy great food and great company, and that’s pretty exciting,” Betz said. “This building is ultimately dedicated for those who will eat here.”

The construction is expected to be completed over 12-18 months and is one of five construction projects that are underway on campus, according to Johnson.

While the new dining facility will eventually replace Buddy’s when it opens in the spring of 2020, Buddy’s will remain operational as the campus’ main dining facility until then.

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