Last summer, the university started renovating Hawk’s Nest, located on the first floor of University Suites, into a dining hall similar to the one at the Inn & Conference Center (ICC). The goal of this project is to alleviate the overcrowding of Fox Hall Dining caused by the addition of River Hawk Village, as well as provide a late-night dining solution that many students, including athletes and students with co-op and work studies, have been requesting. According to original plans, Hawk’s Nest was projected to open alongside the start of the spring semester. However, as students returning to campus after winter break passed by Hawk’s Nest, they were greeted by ladders, construction equipment and supplies scattered all over the floor. It seems that students like psychology major Johnny Melanson might have to wait a little bit longer because the project has been delayed.
Melanson, a University Suites resident, says he is excited about the new dining hall but jokes that he doesn’t think it will be done before he leaves for summer break.
“They just don’t look like they have enough done,” said Melanson.
Progress hit a snag in November when a plumbing inspector brought to the attention of the university that new building codes that have been put into place since the building’s original construction, and that changes would need to be made if the building was going to able to support the production of large amounts of food. In order to bring the building up to code, a large part of the floor had to be drilled out and the plans had to be reworked, which set the entire project behind schedule for six weeks.
Fortunately, according to Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Larry Siegel, pending no further setbacks, construction is estimated to be finished by late March.
The Hawk’s Nest will include new booths and single chairs to accommodate a capacity of 128 students at a time. Similar to the dining hall at the ICC, Hawk’s Nest will feature two signature dishes, a made to order station, pizza, deli, and desserts. Additionally, the new dining hall will integrate parts of the original Hawk’s Nest such as Red Mango, and include a variation of Provisions on Demand, or P.O.D, found at Fox Commons. Finally, the Hawk’s Nest will be home to a new restaurant that will allow students to order using an electronic kiosk, and pick up their meal at the counter
However, even if construction ends in March, this does not necessarily mean that Hawk’s Nest will open in March nor in the following weeks. With a later opening date comes new problems. Training new employees and performing dry runs to ensure all equipment works properly will require another two to three weeks. Additionally, potential new employees would be trained for two weeks, work for a week, be off for the week of spring break, then work for 3 more weeks before being off for ten more weeks, making the job undesirable. Other Aramark employees could be pulled to work in the dining hall for time and a half but training would prove to be an unruly task.
One solution Siegel and his team are considering is the possibility of hosting specialty nights with food prepared by the catering department for targeted groups such as residents of University Suites, and perhaps some groups of residents in River Hawk Village.
“We want to do something really nice for them., like a ‘sorry and thank you’ preview to familiarize the residents and help them see what it’s going to be like next year,” said Siegel. In addition to showing off the new facilities, this opens the floor to student feedback to ensure everything is set for when the dining hall opens for real.
Siegel is extremely excited for what the opening of Hawk’s Nest could mean for the future of the University. He speculates that the added dining hall on East Campus this summer will open doors for renovation and revitalization of Fox Dining Hall. Furthermore, Siegel thinks that this addition will do a lot to improve the quality of the dining experience during intersession when there are less people on campus, and less workers at the dining hall. Hawk’s Nest is designed to be a smaller space that will work better to fulfill everyone’s needs.
The best things in life are worth waiting for, and the opening of Hawk’s Nest might just be one of those things.