Norse Commons begins plans for remodel

Brody Kenny, Staff writer

Returning residents in the 2013-14 school year may expect to see a significant change to the makeup of the Northern Kentucky University residential village, as the Norse Commons dining hall is planning a complete renovation over next summer.

At a meeting of the Association of Campus Residents, NKU Director of Business Operations Andy Meeks discussed the tentative plans for renovating and remodeling Norse Commons, which has previously seen “cosmetic renovations” such as new televisions and furniture. This more demanding remodel would likely require a premature closing of Norse Commons in April.
“Timing becomes a huge issue,” Meeks said.

According to Meeks, early sketches of the completed renovation are underway and the expected cost is around $1.5 million, but nothing can be confirmed yet. Money has been saved for this project for the last four years.

“We do not have an endless supply of money for this project, but funding is not the issue,” Meeks said.
The issue, it seems, might be figuring out how to change the structure of Norse Commons to make it better than ever. Attendees of the meeting were surveyed as to how they would like to see things change. One request was to change the apparent “high school cafeteria feel” of the current layout. Meeks said the current trend with university dining programs seems to be “open with a lot of stations.”
Junior resident adviser Elizabeth Mayberry has lived on campus for three years and described her experience with Norse Commons as steadily getting better. A vegetarian for six months, Mayberry said she is satisfied with the options available for her, but believes the layout should be changed for more efficiency.
“There’s always really long lines during certain times of day,” Mayberry said.

When the time comes to break ground on this endeavor, classes will likely still be in session. Therefore, residents will need a place to eat. Tentative plans are to convert the Student Union game room and portions of the ballroom into makeshift cafeterias. Though the question remains if residents will be willing to trek further than normal for their daily meals.
While the Norse Commons renovation was the primary target of discussion, other areas of campus dining were also considered. The Northern Fare Food Court was given some consideration as well, namely figuring out what students do and don’t want in there. A plan to bring in Chick-fil-A was nixed after company president Dan Cathy’s remarks on same-sex marriage earlier this year gave the company some PR trouble. A suggestion to bring in local favorite Skyline Chili was countered with Meeks’ statement that doing so had not worked very well in the past.

Changes to the meal plans available for residents to purchase received attention as well. The most popular option currently is the unlimited meal plan. One possibility that was raised was having block plans of about 10 meals a week (as opposed to 15 or 17) with more access to retail operations such as Einstein Bros Bagels in Steely Library and Starbucks in the Student Union. The amount of flex dollars available for students (between $100 and $275 depending on meal plan) was considered insufficient by some meeting attendees. For the 2013-2014 school year, quite a few things in the NKU dining department could be remodeled, literally and figuratively.

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