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New Student Union, football facility, now open for business

by Richard Veilleux - August 28, 2006

Students returning to the Storrs campus this weekend should notice a few changes since they left campus in May.

The Student Union, after four years of renovations, additions, and new construction, reopened Aug. 21.

Phase II of the project, a 90,000-square-foot wing attached to the original structure, boasts a high-ceilinged ballroom capable of holding up to 900 people, and a 300-seat food court that offers Italian and Mexican food, a rotisserie offering comfort food, a soup and salad station, and a coffee shop.

Three chain restaurants - Blimpie, Panda Express, and Wendy's - round out the eateries.

In a loft area above the food court, there is additional space for four vendors. One of those spaces will be occupied by Anthony's Hair Salon, and another by the Union Central Exchange, a large convenience store similar to CVS.

The addition also brings together, for the first time, all six cultural centers, with the Asian American Cultural Center, Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center, Rainbow Center, and Women's Center located on the fourth floor.

The African American Cultural Center and the International Center are in the renovated portion of the building.

"This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful student unions I've ever had the pleasure of working in or visiting," says Monica Rudzik, who was named director of the Student Union in July.

"It's one of the reasons I wanted this job. I know that our students will be as excited about it as we are, and I'm confident they will find that it exceeds their expectations in terms of dining options, services, and entertainment.

Also completed during the summer was The Burton Family Football Complex and Mark R. Shenkman Training Center.

The Shenkman facility includes a large, fully equipped strength and conditioning facility, and an indoor FieldTurf football field for the Husky football team, as well as for other intercollegiate and intramural teams.

The indoor football field in The Shenkman Training Center features a 120-foot-high ceiling, allowing punters and place kickers to practice without fear of the ball hitting the roof.

In the Burton complex, there is a large academic resource center that includes a computer center, a partitioned area for individual or group tutoring, a large study lounge, and offices for academic advisors from the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletics.

The players' locker room is large and comfortable, and an athletic training room offers the best equipment available, including four hydro-therapy pools.

"These facilities are something coaches, players, staff, and everyone around this team have been dreaming about since we came to UConn," says Randy Edsall, head football coach.

"It is a high quality facility where the team can get everything they need, from academic counseling and support to meeting rooms and training facilities, all under one roof. It makes UConn more competitive in attracting student-athletes and coaches. I don't think there's a nicer one on any campus in America."

The two facilities will become the University's - and the NCAA's - first projects certified as meeting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for "green" buildings. LEED designation is a process certifying that a construction project meets a wide variety of environmentally-friendly criteria.

Richard Miller, the University's director of environmental policy, says there are more than three dozen components in the construction of the complex that promote environmental sustainability, from site selection to building design and selection of materials, energy and water conservation, and indoor environmental quality.

He says the University will earn creativity points from LEED by using 7,000-cubic-feet of peat excavated from the site to help restore and create wetlands that will be affected by the cleanup and construction activity at the former UConn landfill.

The landfill is currently being capped.

Recycled steel was used in constructing the athletic facility, and the synthetic turf for the indoor field is comprised of various recycled materials, including rubber from shredded tires and sneakers.

Ninety percent of regularly occupied spaces in the complex offer natural daylight and external views, reducing energy costs by enabling passive solar heating in the winter, and providing a more conducive environment for those who use the building.

Permeable pavement, as an alternative to concrete or asphalt, and "bio-retention" swales around the facility will help cleanse storm water and reduce runoff that might otherwise cause sedimentation, erosion, and localized flooding downstream of the site.

"You can really appreciate the difference in the two buildings," says senior offensive lineman Matt Applebaum.

"I'm really excited to have such a beautiful home for my final year at UConn.

"Coming into something like this every morning really makes you proud to be a part of this program," he adds.

"I know it will help UConn football continue to grow in the future."  

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