Students and alumni, consider yourselves warned. The face of campus is going to change forever.
Construction will begin on the long-awaited Student Activities Center this summer, due to a $20 million donation from the Fairholme Foundation.
“It is going to be a game-changer like the Wellness Center was in the ‘90s,” said Patricia Whitely, the vice president for student affairs. “It’s part of a strategic plan to improve the undergraduate experience.”
The new building will face Lake Osceola, at the location of the current Rathskeller, and wrap around the Frost School of Music’s Gusman Hall. The center will feature three floors and include a multipurpose hall, offices for student organizations, a study center and a student lounge.
In the 40 years that the UC has been in existence, the number of student organizations has increased from 121 to over 260. With this increase, the new Student Activities Center will be able to house the ever increasing number of student organizations.
Departments like the Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development will also be moved to the new building.
“It will be at the heart of Hurricane life for years to come,” said UM President Donna E. Shalala during a press conference to announce the donation. “We will witness the transformation of life on campus.”
In order to make room for construction of the complex, the iconic and popular Rathskeller restaurant will be torn down in the summer and relocated to the area currently housing Sbarro in the Whitten University Center.
Over the summer, university administrators will work to transition Sbarro into a darker, bar-like atmosphere that emulates the historic Rat. Outdoor gliders will be relocated to the UC Patio, the Pan-Hellenic Building and other campus locations.
Once construction is finished in the summer of 2013, the Rat will be moved into the new Student Activities Center.
“Is it the old one? No,” Whitely said. “But we will save a lot of the stuff from the old Rat, like the sports and Greek stuff and the things on the walls and move it to the new one.”
Programming that typically occurs at the Rat, like concerts and comedy shows, will have to be modified to accommodate the new location.
“We are going to have to downsize but we won’t cut anything,” said Randa Obit, the chair of the Rathskeller Advisory Board. “We would have to wait to see what the setup is like.”
Student employees will be able to keep their jobs at the Rat, despite the renovations. Some are excited for the change.
“I’ve been working here since my freshman year,” senior Olivia Moffett said. “It’s the beginning of a new generation making memories.”
The Fairholme Foundation was founded by the chief investment officer of Fairholme Capital Management Bruce Berkowitz who is also a long-time Miami resident. All his three children have attended the university.
“We have realized that this is just not great for the U, but it’s also good for the community,” said Tracey Berkowitz, president and trustee of the foundation. “They are such great people; you can’t help but get involved.”
The foundation has also been involved in other projects on campus, including The Launch Pad.
As construction on the center commences, the current University Center will also undergo extensive renovations during this summer and the following one.
The Rat celebrated its “last call” at its current location on April 29, the last day of spring semester classes.