Campus News

Dining Expansion Planned at Gatton Student Center to Address Student Needs, Continued Growth

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photo of Gatton Student Center
map showing where expansion would take place out from Champions Kitchen

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 18, 2019) — The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approved a proposal Friday for up to $25 million to expand dining and increase student support space in the Gatton Student Center.

The reasons:

  • High participation levels in UK meal plans that are used at the Student Center’s multiple dining venues, particularly Champions Kitchen.
  • Plans to continue to strategically grow undergraduate enrollment as part of meeting the state’s workforce needs. UK had record first-year enrollment this fall of nearly 5,400 with a total enrollment of more than 30,000.

“We put students and their success at the center of everything that we do,” said UK Board Chair Robert Vance. “The clear need to expand dining capacity at the newly renovated Student Center underscores our commitment to students and our commitment to serving the entire campus community.”

Details of the expansion:

The renovated and expanded Gatton Student Center was opened in 2018 with nearly 380,000 square feet. It includes student organization spaces, student support and lounge spaces, retail options, a state-of-the-art recreation facility, residential and retail dining spaces, and administrative offices among other uses.

UK Dining — a partnership between the university and Aramark — provides multiple dining venues throughout the facility. The Student Center is open seven days a week and is heavily utilized by the campus and broader community.

UK Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Eric N. Monday said participation rates for meal plans offered by UK Dining are popular with students and among staff and faculty.

A recently completed feasibility study commissioned by UK and conducted by Omni Architects examined expanding the current Champions Kitchen dining area east toward the parking lot and the Singletary Center for the Arts.

The study also recommended that it would be most cost effective to construct additional floors above the expanded dining space that can be fitted out as needed to provide student support and other services.

“We constructed the renovated Student Center with the capacity for expansion to meet the needs of students and our campus community as we grow,” Monday said. “The Student Center has become the living room of our campus even more quickly than we anticipated. It’s the heartbeat of our campus and has become the central gathering and dining space for much of the community.

“Planning for expansion now demonstrates the power of this partnership,” Monday said. “It allows us to be nimble, to think strategically, and to act with the needs of our students and campus always first in our minds.”

Financing the expansion:

The full scope of the expansion approved by the UK Board of Trustees is $25 million. Partial funding will be provided by UK dining partner, Aramark. 

Monday said the project would also be submitted to the Council on Postsecondary Education for consideration as well as the state legislature’s Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee, which reviews construction proposals in the interim between legislative sessions.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.