Student Center Finally Opens

Two years, six months, eight days, 11 hours and 30 minutes since the groundbreaking ceremony on March 15, 2005, Phase IV of the Student Center will finally open this Monday, Sept. 24.
The overwhelming majority of the facilities in the building will be available. The exceptions within include the Ballroom, which will open during the beginning of October, the East Food Court and Pub, which will open in early November, and the Copy Center, which is expected to open in January 2008.
The first step toward this new phase of the Student Center was taken in the spring of 2000, when the UC Irvine Student Center Advisory Board approved a motion to move forward with plans to extend the Student Center. Construction began in the spring of 2005, and the building seemed to shoot up from that point.
So what can students expect to find at the Center? For one, ‘much more lounge and study space than ever before,’ describes Marc Tuchman, who is the director of the Student Center and who has been behind the project since the very beginning. ‘The new building is state-of-the-art and is more than 50 percent larger than the old building. In Phase III of the Student Center we had one food court and a pub. In Phase IV, we have two different food courts, a pub and a convenience store. We also have significantly more conference and meeting room space now, including the new Ballroom, which will seat about 1,200 people’ Tuchman said. Furthermore, the Cross Cultural Center, which is also part of the expansion, has nearly doubled in size.
In addition to increased space, the Center will also include areas where students can meet, relax, study, surf the Web, watch TV, play video games and eat.
The two food courts will offer students more food choices, with shops such as Quizno’s, Rice Garden, Tortilla Express, Wendy’s and, in the East Food Court which will open later, Bene Pizza and Greens to Go.
Several students expressed excitement about this particular aspect of the Center. ‘I was really excited to see that there were now more food options available, especially ones that accept Zot Bucks,’ exclaimed second-year English major Pat Barton. ‘I’ve got a lot of those bad boys saved up and I plan to unload on the new Wendy’s.’
Another exciting new feature of the Student Center is the placement of an anteater structures on two different towers of the building. One of the statues is a 12-foot copy of the Anteater in front of the Bren Events Center, and graces the front of the entrance to the West Food Court.
It is made of a lightweight molded material, similar to that of a surfboard, with a metallic finish. The statue, which lights up from the front at night, was donated by Tuchman and his wife, Michelle,. but it’s the other statue that has taken Tuchman’s breath away.
The 9-foot anteater is part of what has been named the Icon Tower, at the corner of West Peltason and Pereira. At night it is illuminated from the back, so that the outline of the statue becomes visible, and can be seen from quite a distance.
‘It is spectacular,’ Tuchman said. ‘It’s worth taking a picture of. Everyone that has seen it has commented that it’s really pretty special. And that was the intent, it was meant to be the icon for the Student Center, that one design element that will always be recognized as belonging to [it]. In fact, it would not surprise me if, in time, it became the icon for the campus.’
When the Center opens on Monday, it will be one the largest student centers in California, the newest student center in the UC system and completely state-of-the-art. One downside of the project will be the additional $89 added to the current $47.50 per quarter Student Center fee for UCI students. The fee increase was approved by students before it was instated.
Tuchman, however, is not worried about whether the additional cost will affect the way students see the Center.
‘I think the students that were here for the old facility will be pleasantly surprised to see the contrast between Phase III and Phase IV,’ Tuchman said. ‘And the students who were not here will be positively impressed with the new facility. It will definitely serve the campus for many, many years to come.’