Students who are still on campus after finals will see the start of renovations on The Pit, which closes for construction on May 8. For the rest returning this fall, they will find the site doubled in size and home to two new food stations Zoca (a Mexican station), and Panda Express.
The grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 25, and UR Dining Services has planned a series of ‘soft openings” beforehand to ensure that the facility runs smoothly. The grand opening for staff will be on Aug. 18.
‘We will absolutely, positively be open the first day of orientation [on Wednesday, Aug. 25],” Director of UR Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf said. ‘That’s priority number one.”
The rest of Wilson Commons, including its offices and Starbucks, is closing after Commencement Weekend. Summer dining operations will move to Douglass Dining Center and office operations to Hoeing Hall during the renovations.
Schauf said that he and his staff have been formally discussing plans for a new Pit for at least three years. Although the project received a green light from UR administration in 2009, it was delayed due to a lack of funding. This past fall, however, New York State contributed a $1.24 million grant to aid the $5 million project.
Since the fall, UR Dining has communicated with students, faculty and staff alike on what they can expect from the renovated Pit, down to the colors of the tile. Most recently, UR Dining presented this information at an open information session and its monthly Dining Committee meeting for undergraduates.
Food Service Director of Wilson Commons Thomas VanPelt said at the Dining Committee presentation on Tuesday night that the changes address results from student surveys: requests for more ethnic choices, more vegetarian and healthy options and faster service.
While Panda Express brings Chinese fast food to campus for the first time, Zoca is a similar concept to the current Mexican Tortilla Fresca in Douglass. A new grill station will replace the station in Douglass in order to limit competition between the two. Both stations should also increase the vegetarian and healthy food choices found in The Pit, according to VanPelt.
For faster service, there will be 16 new hourly employees, two beverage stations and four cash registers added at the location. It will also house a new 6,000-pound pizza oven that is capable of cooking up to 12 pizzas at one time.
‘A lot of the equipment we’ll have gives us a higher capacity at each station,” Schauf said.
Many details about the menu items are still being discussed, both with the vendors and within UR Dining. For example, the cost of the self-serve salad bar may be calculated by weight in ounces, instead of having a set price for a plate. Salads will still be Clubbable, but there may be a cutoff weight. Exact menu items at the new stations are undetermined, as well.
‘You would see as many Club options in the new configuration as we have now,” Schauf said. ‘We don’t believe that we are taking any option away.”
Only Blimpie is moving away from The Pit the vendor, which is still in contract with UR, will be moved to the Hive. According to Schauf, the Hive’s gaming setup and popcorn should be unaffected by this move.
Projects and Services Co-Chair and sophomore Alissa Brill said that UR Dining has worked closely with students throughout the entire process.
‘They’ve reached out to students along every step of the process so they are really trying to make sure the renovation satisfies the students needs, in terms of aesthetics, functionality, food quality, addressing special dietary needs, and more.”
‘We know we’re not going to be perfect,” Schauf said. ‘Our goal is to be able to recover as quickly as possible.”
Leber is a member of the class of 2011.