After three years of planning and fundraising, Oklahoma Christian University is nearing the groundbreaking of a new, state-of-the-art cafeteria.
According to Executive Director of Facilities and Construction Management Steve Scovel, the final paperwork is being finalized to be presented to the board overseeing the project next month.
“Where we’re at right now is in the construction document phase,” Scovel said. “It’s the final phase in which the drawings and specifications are being completed. Those are nearly done, and once those are completed they will go to the construction manager for final pricing. The process for final pricing is about a three-week process. Once that takes place, then we will have a number for the construction costs. Then at the Oct. 13 board meeting, that construction package with the costs will be given to the board for approval.”
Construction on the new cafeteria will begin if the board approves the final paperwork. The current plan is to break ground sometime this fall and open the cafeteria to students beginning spring 2019. Scovel said once construction begins, the project will take about 14 months to complete.
The 17,000-square-foot cafeteria, located on the northwest end of the Gaylord University Center, will connect directly to the student center. The vacant former counseling center will be demolished to make room for the kitchen, while the vacant former Student Government Association (SGA) office and game room will be converted into private dining rooms.
Once student dining operations have permanently relocated, the former dining area will be used exclusively as a banquet hall for special events, and the former kitchen will continue to be used by U Dining’s catering service. The serving area of the current cafeteria will eventually be remodeled to house a new mailroom and SGA office.
The new cafeteria will feature seven distinct food stations offering made-to-order fare, including a sandwich and wrap station, personal pizza oven and Mongolian grill. Students will be allotted an undetermined number of minutes after swiping their meal card and entering the serving area, during which they will be permitted to go back and forth between the serving area to the dining hall to select any food they choose.
Scovel said an updated food preparation process will be among the major changes seen in the new cafeteria.
“It’s going to be more of a made-to-order kitchen,” Scovel said. “Right now, the food is made in the kitchen, brought out, and is then distributed to students. The new kitchen will be different, most of it will be prepared there and served there. “
Booth-style seating and individual tables capable of sitting two to 10 people will be available in the dining hall. Large windows will allow natural light into the room and provide views of the Lawson Commons, Freede Centennial Tower and McGraw Pavilion. Students will be allowed into the dining hall portion of the cafeteria to study or socialize without having to swipe their meal card.
Scovel said he is confident the cafeteria will become a place students want to congregate.
“One thing the new dining center is going to do is give students a view,” Scovel said. “There are going to be windows. It’s going to be a nice place to hang out. The current place where students dine, there are no windows. I’m a huge proponent of natural light. I think it’s extremely important. The dining center is going to be a pleasant place to be, and I think students will want to be there.”
Freshman Gavin Meisels said he is excited about the fresh atmosphere the new cafeteria will provide.
“When you’re in the current cafeteria, you feel very enclosed,” Meisels said. “Having that atmosphere with the windows open would definitely add a more friendly feeling to the cafeteria.”
Even though she will graduate before the new cafeteria opens, senior Chaunicie Ehrlich said she is optimistic about the positive impact the new cafeteria may have on campus in the future.
“I think it might boost morale a bit,” Ehrlich said. “I know people tend to be negative about the caf. The food isn’t always great, and that may not change, but I think having an updated environment would be really beneficial to the way people act towards the caf.”