COLUMBIA — A smiling Beetle Bailey was roaming the new student center Thursday.
The reason for his visit?
As a mute, foam-headed mascot, he's not talking. But word is it's because The Shack's coming back.
The Shack was an old campus bar and burger joint favored by students, including Beetle Bailey’s creator, MU alumnus Mort Walker. The musty, wooden building burned in 1988, but it’s being resurrected this fall as part of a lounge in MU’s $63 million student center.
Michelle Froese of Student Auxiliary Services at MU said designing the lounge around pieces of the original Shack will bring a bit of old tradition to a shiny, new building.
“In planning the center, we thought, ‘How do you make a new building feel like it’s connected to the campus and to tradition?’” Froese said.
The new Shack — decked out with flat-screen TVs next to a games area with pool tables — is designed to be a student hangout much like the original Shack, but without the alcohol, Froese said. Students will be able to grab a Shackburger topped with Shack sauce made from the original recipe.
That’s all a bit in the future. The Shack’s location is still a bare, concrete foundation outside the food court. Joe Hayes, assistant director for the Missouri Student Unions, said construction workers are racing to complete it by late October or early November.
The first part of the new student center opened six months ahead of schedule.
Beetle was almost lost in the bustle at the student center Thursday as students milled around the new food court to the sound of a live band and employees passed out yellow-frosted cupcakes.
For those who noticed him, Beetle was happy to socialize — but not speak — in keeping with the mascot code of conduct.
Bethany Welcher, who read the Mort Walker strip growing up, stopped to pose for photos with the comic character. She said she thinks the pool tables and TVs will be a useful addition to the lounge.
“I think we definitely need something else to do here because right now there’s just food,” she said.
The new Shack will inherit table booths and boards from the old dive. Students traditionally covered the wooden planks with their carved names. Froese said those who want to be a part of the new Shack can have their name carved on the wall for $125 to $250.
The original tables and boards are being freshened up, a process that Froese said requires removing decades of encrusted chewing gum. “It’s like the history of Missouri in chewing gum.”