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New student union still on track after slight delay

A 100-workstation computer lab, an expansive food court, numerous study spaces and a 1,200-seat ballroom are just a few of the features students can look forward to when the new Marshall Center officially opens its doors July 2008.

Originally slated to open in May 2008, director of Marshall Student Center Joe Synovec said there were some challenges with the budget and design last January, so the project was held up for two months. However, the building is still on target and on budget.

Synovec believes there were several reasons the new building is needed. For instance, the current Marshall Center, built in 1960 when USF had only 2,000 students, is the second-oldest building on campus and consistently lacks sufficient space for student groups.

“Based on our 36,000 students, the building should be 360,000 square feet; ours is 106,000 square feet,” said Synovec. “This University needs more variety, more space, more everything.”

According to the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, student unions are recommended to have an average of 10 square feet per student.

Discussions about a new Marshall Center have been in the works since 1999, when a group of students went to the vice president of student affairs and the president of the University and told them that the union was too small and did not meet their needs. Synovec said inception has taken this long because approval from the state and the trustees was delayed after the 2000 presidency change. In 2003, students again went to the University about updating the center.

“This was absolutely student-driven from day one,” said Synovec. “The reason we are where we are at today is because of what the students have done in the last several years.”

Earlier in the year, there were complaints about the amount of noise from the construction, but Synovec promises that the majority of the noise is over.

“We knew that the noise would be an issue on campus, so they arranged for a second crane to come on campus to get that portion done faster,” said Schulte.

Once the new building is opened, the previous one will be torn down instead of being reused. Brian Schulte, the marketing coordinator for the Marshall Center, said it is important to note that the original student union will stay open until the new one is ready; they will not be closing down any services.

“It is going to be a high-energy building.” said Synovec. “The atrium is going to be such a lively place. You will be basically walking into this four-story atrium, and in that atrium you are going to be able to look and see practically everything that is going on in the building.”

The new food court will feature a Chick-Fil-A, Sbarro, Bleecker Street Cafe and possibly a Moe’s, which was preferred by students over Taco Bell in an online poll. There will also be a Beef O’ Brady’s and a larger Einstein Bros. Bagels with full menu.

“We also have loads of lounges throughout the building: big lounges, small lounges, little nooks and crannies so students can come in and study, they can hang out, sleep and meet with their friends,” said Synovec. “We are building four group study rooms, so if you have a project you can go in there.”

Another new feature is the student life tower, which will allow students to get involved in and join campus activities in one central location. The area will include meeting rooms and lounges.

Everything is being expanded, such as the credit union and the student identification card center. The ballroom will be twice as big, seating 1,200, while the multipurpose room will seat 400.

“This is going to be an absolutely fantastic building for the students,” said Synovec, “I don’t think any student really appreciates what’s going to happen come next summer.”