For the last 33 years, students on the west end of campus have had to travel about a mile in order to enjoy what Union South or Memorial Union offers to students.
As plans for a new union on the west end of campus develop, the days of engineering and medical students’ long walks to the nearest union may be waning.
“All plans for a new union are very conceptual at this point,” said University of Wisconsin Union director Mark Guthier. “Our idea is to not only give a heart to the medical campus, but to connect it to the rest of the campus.”
The proposed union would be built as part of Healthstar, an interdisciplinary research complex with upgraded medical facilities. Healthstar is currently in the works near the Clinical Science Center on the west end of campus. The most promising plan out of several currently under consideration has the new union placed on top of the Center’s parking lot in order to avoid tearing down any existing structures.
The proposed union will be roughly half the size of Union South but would offer many of the same services as the current unions, such as small recreational facilities and places to eat, computer kiosks and meeting facilities.
Some of the differences, however, would include less entertainment space and an environment catered more toward graduate students.
“Compared to many other universities, we do not fare very well when it comes to square footage of union space compared to the number of students at the University,” Guthier said.
Guthier added that the goal is to provide every student with a union within a 10-minute walking distance, something the new union would accomplish.
Guthier said UW will use its own dollars to fund this project and may also take out a mortgage for additional fund. Revenues brought in by the new union would cover any budget shortfall.
Planning is still in such an early stage, he added, that there is no firm estimate of what the new union will cost.
Some students are excited by the idea of a new student union.
“It’s difficult to imagine a union attempting to compete with [existing unions], but I’m definitely excited to see what it will have to offer,” said UW sophomore Alanna Strauss.
Dates have not yet been finalized, but construction may begin before 2005.
The UW’s Memorial Union celebrated its 75th birthday this year. The first of the two existing unions, Memorial Union opened in 1928, 43 years before Union South opened in 1971. A week-long birthday celebration for the Unions will commence Oct. 4.
Preliminary drawings of the new union may be revealed during the birthday celebration week.