2020 Renovation & Construction Showcase: Nebraskan Student Union, University of Nebraska–Kearney
Nebraskan Student Union
University of Nebraska–Kearney | Kearney, Nebraska
Submitted by: Sharon Pelc, Student Union and Student Engagement Director
Campus type: Four-year, public
Full-time enrollment: 6,300
Project broke ground: December 2017
Project completed: March 2019
Total area: 70,000 sq. ft.
Project cost: $6.9 million
Funding source: Institution
Architect: Schemmer – Lincoln, Nebraska
Food court, bookstore, programming space, meeting space: 30,000 sq. ft.
A lot of folks apparently like the food at Chick-fil-A, so imagine being the first one you can find after driving over 370 miles across Nebraska. That would be the new one located inside the Nebraskan Student Union, and then it’s another 125 miles before you find another one, in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Adding a new Starbucks and a facelift to the existing Subway restaurant have also helped turn the renovated Nebraskan Student Union into a destination not only for campus visitors, but for the region. A multi-sided fireplace and the fact the building is accessible to students 24 hours a day means the union has become an all-hours gathering spot even if the restaurants are closed.
New mechanical systems and lighting, along with an upgrade of interior finishes, brought new life to a 55-year-old building that hadn’t seen a renovation in almost 20 years. A welcome desk was reconfigured and given more prominence, sightlines and wayfinding were improved, and amenities like movable glass walls have brought a refreshing taste of modernity to the space.
A closed loop hearing system offers a cutting-edge assist to the hearing impaired, and a new, large video wall dishes out multimedia for programming, special events, and telecasts. The university bookstore and first floor meeting room all had facelifts, and there’s enough flexibility in the design of the food court that it can double as an entertainment and live music venue.
“For us to get the optimum use out of the facility it was important for us to carefully ask our students and customers what they wanted,” said Sharon Pelc, director of the student union and student engagement. “Multiple student surveys and forums take extra time up front and they may even slow down the start of a project, but they offer a big payoff in students getting use out of the facility. To get great student utilization, I’d say listen carefully.”