During the spring of 2011, the Rathskeller was located next to Lake Osceola – and the new 119,368-square-foot Student Activities Center (SAC) was just a drawing on a map.
Now, more than a year later, the old Rat has been leveled and the bones of the SAC tower over the lake. Construction crews poured the last of the concrete in May.
Dan Westbrook, the director of the University Center (UC), and Dr. Pat Whitely, the vice president for student affairs, held a town hall meeting on April 17 to update students on the progress of the new building and address any concerns. During the meeting, Whitely and Westbrook outlined the layout the new three-story complex.
“We want to have the pulse and heart beat of student life to be in the new center,” Whitely said.
The Rat, which will be located near the Frost School of Music, will have two floors, with pool tables on the second story, reminiscent of the old Rat.
The rest of the first floor will include a social study space for students, ATMs, and three retail shops. According to Westbrook, the first-floor social study space may become a 24-hour study area for students.
“We have to make provisions for cleaning and security, but it’s a real possibility,” he said.
On the second floor, there will be a suite for undergraduate student organizations, student media, the Graduate Student Association, some administrative offices and a hallway dedicated to banner-painting.
All the student offices that are currently located in the University Center will be moved to the SAC. There will then be two to three rooms remaining in the SAC for which other student organizations can apply. There will also be approximately 10 to 20 cubicles and about 20 lockers available for organizations to use.
“We’re definitely looking forward to the new Student Activities Center, with the benefits of the new building, new furniture and new technology,” said Hong-Uyen Hua, the incoming president of the Committee on International Student Organizations.
The third floor of the SAC will feature a ballroom capable of seating more than 1,000 people. There will also be a reception area overlooking the lake and a kitchen for caterers. Students will also have a new pantry and meeting rooms.
The SAC will work alongside the existing University Center, UC Patio, pool and other outdoor spaces at the university to create an entire student center complex. As such, the UC is also getting a face lift this summer.
The wall separating the stairwell from the Lower Lounge will be removed and the upstairs meeting rooms will be equipped with new projectors. The UC will still be open to students all summer.
“I think the renovations are great,” said senior Allison Norris, who is an incoming student at UM’s School of Law. “We’re becoming such a better school and attracting better students, and paying more tuition for it, so it’s long overdue.”
Additionally, the UC Patio will receive a new amphitheater, which will be located at the far end of the patio. It will replace the current stage.
Construction will continue into the fall semester. The patio will be partially closed but students and faculty will still have access to the Rat gliders and some of the patio next to them. Westbrook expects the patio to fully reopen in the spring.
Also, in the fall, students will have a statue of the “U” located near the Rock. The statue will be made of stainless steel and will showcase the school’s orange and green logo.
“We never really had anything central to campus that people could take pictures with or touch on the way to a final,” said Brandon Mitchell, former Student Government president. “It’ll improve the spirit on campus from the minute it is there.”
Students can use the new SAC website launched by the Division of Student Affairs to track the progress of the construction of the building.
Whitely said the website will allow students, staff, faculty and alumni to follow “this transformative building.”
The SAC website features a frequently asked questions section, construction photos, a live camera, an interactive timeline and details on the building’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
The LEED Green Building Rating System measures factors such as materials selection and energy efficiency. The university is striving to implement many sustainable features in the SAC in order to obtain the best possible LEED rating, according to the website.
To view the website, visit miami.edu/sa/index.php/student_activities_center.