- Terra Molengraff/Daily
By Stephanie Shenouda, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 19, 2013
With the smell of orange chicken wafting through the air, complimentary Frosties from the Wendy’s mascot and the cutting of a ribbon, the Michigan Union Grill — the dining area in the Michigan Union’s basement — was officially opened.
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Though the pomp and circumstance of a grand opening took place Thursday, the MUG was opened to the public shortly before fall term began. The space was renovated to create a brighter and more inviting area — a community space for students as opposed to simply a food court.
E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, spoke to the crowd about the historic importance of the MUG to the University.
“The MUG has changed and so have we, depending when you hailed here,” Harper said. “There was a swimming pool on the ground floor that was made into the Alumni Center, that I’ve only heard about, but there’s a little bit of our past here, as well as our commitment to sustainability.”
Harper added that the wood paneling from the former bowling alley in the Union was preserved in the area by Ahmo’s Mediterranean Grill to be sustainable and give a nod to the University’s past.
Harper also expressed pride at the amount of student involvement in planning the MUG’s renovation.
“The Michigan Union is actually all about people,” Union Director Susan Pile told the Michigan Daily. “The food is a key motivator, but what we actually want to see is people hanging out with their friends down here or meeting for a study group.”
Pile said her favorite part of the new design is the community table, which was brought out of storage after being carved by students in 1911.
“We were able to bring it out and I think it’s a really nice way to marry the present with the past,” Pile said. “It tells a story and serves a function and that’s really what we’re about, so I think it’s perfect.”
She added that the University Unions’ motto is “creating lifetime memories,” which she feels the space will better allow students to do.
“In the past you might have done it or seen people where they’re like ‘I’m just going to get my sandwich and leave, I don’t want to be down here,’ ” Pile said. “It was dark, and the response that we got from students was that it felt like you were eating in a basement, which no one wants to do, so it definitely doesn’t anymore.”
LSA senior Adam Kleven was one of several students who offered his input as part of the Union committee. One of the committee’s duties was assessing which restaurants and vendors would be a part of the Union’s new lineup.
“Ahmo’s being a local business was an important factor in why we chose them, and Subway has been a great partner, and they’re an affordable option, so that’s important to students,” he said.
Kleven said he believes that student involvement is always going to be an important part of the Union.
“The Union was created by students for students, so I believe it’s very important that they feel like it’s a place they want to be and like their interests were represented,” he said. “Overall, I’m very happy with the turn-out and know that other students will be too.”