By Travis Gulbrandson
The expansion of the Theodore R. and Karen K. Muenster University Center (MUC) is officially open, an occasion its namesake called “wonderful.”
“It’s a high honor, it’s a great tribute to my family and I’m very pleased how popular it is with the campus community,” Ted Muenster said.
The 31,000 square foot expansion was budgeted at $11.6 million, and had its opening ceremony Monday morning.
The expansion includes expanded seating and national restaurant options, such as Chick-fil-A, Qdoba and Einstein Bros. Bagels, the last of which has been open since last year.
Aramark also continues to provide dining options for students and visitors.
“I want to say thank you to everyone who has been involved in this project,” said USD President James Abbott during Monday’s ceremony. “The number of people involved is far too numerous to mention. …
“Suffice it to say that this project took a great deal of work from a great number of people, including a succession of tremendous SGA presidents and vice presidents, senators and cabinets,” he said.
Abbott said the Muensters deserve the most credit.
“Without Ted and Karen Muenster’s involvement over the years, financially and otherwise, with the original MUC, the addition, of course, would not be here,” Abbott said.
Muenster said he had visited the structure several times during the construction period, and got his first look at the finished facility Saturday.
“It’s a beautiful addition,” he said. “It’s just stunning. There’s a tremendous amount of natural light, and it certainly looks like a logical part of the original building. The architects did a wonderful job making it compatible with the style of the original building.”
In addition to the expanded dining options, there are also new seating areas and a new media wall that features 16 60-inch HDTVs that cover 16 feet along the south wall of the cafeteria area.
“It looks fantastic,” said Clay Hoffman, Student Government Association vice president at USD. “I was talking with some of my friends, and we were just amazed at the big-screen TV in there.”
The original MUC building opened in February 2009. Designed by Charles Rose Architects of Somerville, MA, the building was originally constructed at a cost of $19.6 million with 70,000 square feet.
Plans to expand the building were first announced in Abbott’s State of the University address in 2011.
The project’s general contractor was Sioux Falls Construction, with design handled by RS Architects, also of Sioux Falls.
The expansion began in the fall of 2012 with exterior work. Through the next spring and summer steal beams were placed, floors were poured and the exterior enclosure was started.
For a time, the “link” between the original MUC building and the I.D. Weeks Library was closed to accommodate the work being done.
Students appear to be glad the facility is finally open, with lines queuing out from the new restaurant franchises and into the hall formerly occupied by the link Monday morning.
“I’m really enjoying the fact that we don’t have to hear any more of the construction, the plywood’s gone, so it looks aesthetically great now,” Hoffman said. “It’s good to have it done. There are so many study spots. I really like the study area out there with the glass where the sun comes in. It gives you great natural light when you study.
“It’s going to be multi-purpose. It’s the university’s living room. You can go out and have fun with your friends here and chat, but it’s also a good study spot,” he said.
The building is home to student and community social events with a large, second floor ballroom that seats up to 500. There are also second floor meeting rooms, the University of South Dakota Official Bookstore, University Brew store and multiple commons and lounge spaces for students who need a study break.