“We hired a consulting firm to develop a master plan for both Union South and the Memorial Union,” Wisconsin Union Facilities Manager Richard Pierce said. “They came forward with recommendations that went the whole gamut from getting buildings up to code to creating new space.”
Expansion opportunities are “really limited,” according to Pierce, but one proposal would work on a “complete excavation” of Memorial Union’s basement.
Pierce said the master plan also proposes adding a ballroom behind the Wisconsin Union Theatre, building a movie theatre in the basement and providing a new entrance off of Park Street, which currently is “really cramped and not really accessible.”
Wisconsin Union Marketing and External Relations Publicist Marc Kennedy said the combined cost of the master plan proposals could be between $120 and $140 million, adding, “it all depends on each stage.”
While Pierce and his colleagues at the Wisconsin Union are eager to improve and modernize Memorial Union, they simultaneously hope to preserve some of the traditional and historical features that make the Memorial Union distinguishable.
Pierce said one major component of the master plan is that it “respects historical preservation elements. Special areas like the Rathskeller are not dramatically changed.”
Although many of the more costly projects advised in the master plan have yet to commence, Pierce said the past few years have brought about considerable improvements to Memorial Union.
“The renovation of Lakefront on Langdon [dining area] was just finished here last fall and we think that came out very nicely,” Pierce said.
In addition, both the restoration of the Main Lounge and “substantial improvements to [the] fire safety reporting systems” have taken place in the past few years, projects officials believe make the Memorial Union a more comfortable and modern building.
“Right now we have [a] class gift project going on [in] the main second floor entrance of the Memorial Union,” Pierce said.
He added that this particular project focuses on restoring the entrance and improving the lighting.
“The biggest thing for us is hopefully to have a successful referendum related to the master plan implementation,” Pierce said. “We’re not undertaking big huge projects right now until we know where we’re headed with the master plan.”
A referendum on the master plan will be tied to the Associated Students of Madison elections the first week of April. Pierce said the referendum will ask students to vote on increasing their segregated fees, which he said is “a big part of turning the master plan from a dream to a reality.”
In addition to increased segregated fees, Pierce said renovation projects at the Memorial Union have been funded by class gifts and the Memorial Union Building Association, a private benefactor group for the Wisconsin Union, as well as revenue generated by the Wisconsin Union’s own enterprises.