MU dining hall will begin $2.2M renovation in December

Monday, September 7, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 7:46 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 7, 2009

COLUMBIA — A year from now, students who eat at Rollins Dining Hall at MU will find it easier to sit down and eat.

On Dec. 18, the dining hall will close for renovation as part of phase three of MU Residential Life's Master Plan. It is scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2010, said Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life.

Rollins is located between Hudson and Gillett residence halls, both of which will be renovated. Hudson is already closed and Gillett's renovation will begin in the spring of 2010, Minor said.

Andrew Lough, Campus Dining Services marketing manager, said the main feature of the $2.2 million Rollins renovation is the addition of an external entrance.

“The big thing is for us to provide an entrance independent of the residence halls so everyone can have full access to eat,” he said. “This will also provide more security for residents in Hudson and Gillett.”

Lough said the entrance is also intended to allow greater flexibility when campus closes for holidays and seasonal breaks, because Rollins will no longer be accessible solely from residence hall entrances. The renovation will also include more seating and the addition of restrooms.

Eva J’s dining hall staff will pick up the Rollins pizza-to-go option when Rollins closes, Lough said. The pizza-to-go option lets students order pizza after regular dinner hours at dining halls are over. Beginning in the spring, Eva J’s will close for dinner and some seating will be available for students getting pizza-to-go.

He said Eva J’s plans to be open for breakfast and weekend hours when Rollins closes in the winter. Eva J's is currently open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, though Campus Dining Services temporarily extended its hours to include the weekend.

“We always fluctuate our hours the first few weeks of the school year because we know a lot of students stay on campus and need places to eat on the weekends,” Lough said. “But, after Labor Day we’ll probably go back to regular hours.”

The closing of Rollins comes at a time when MU is experiencing higher enrollment. Though Residential Life opened three residence halls this year — Dogwood, Galena and Hawthorn — students are concerned about the already crowded dining halls and what to expect once Rollins closes.

Kelsey Jones, 19, who is a chemistry major living in Schurz Hall, is concerned. Jones said she has noticed the increase in students in all the dining halls where she eats.

“I eat at Baja Grill all the time, and the lines there are ridiculous,” she said. “When I go to Plaza 900, I walk in and turn back around because it’s so crowded.”

With MU enrollment at an all-time high, Minor said there has been an increase in returning students to residence halls.

Lough said Campus Dining Services can accommodate the number of students now despite growing concerns there isn’t enough space in dining halls.

“We have enough space but the problem is large numbers of students eat at one place at one time,” he said, “which is why it’s difficult to find a table for lunch at noon at Plaza 900.”

He said Campus Dining Services and Residential Life have been preparing for growing enrollment. “Phase one of the master plan set the stage for the increase in students with the completion of the Virginia Avenue residence halls and Plaza 900,” Lough said.

Lough said students should keep their options open and branch out to other dining halls in order to minimize the time spent waiting in line for food. “At this time of year, students are still trying to adjust to their schedules so once they get their eating habits in order we can expect less crowds,” he said.

The Residential Life Master Plan is expected to be complete by 2017.

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