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OSU's New Student Union: A Grand Opening For A "Magnificent" Building

A ribbon cutting formally opens the new Ohio Union building at Ohio State University. The 4-story building cost $118 million dollars and will be paid for, for the most part, by students.

From the colors of the carpeting and upholstery in the lounges to the banners that hang in the great hall, a lot of the furnishings in the new Ohio Union say Ohio State University. That's what students wanted says OSU spokeswoman Ruth Gerstner.

"It's very much an Ohio State branded building," Gerstner says. "There's a lot of scarlet and gray, a lot of buckeye leaves, a lot of Block O's. They wanted this to say Ohio State so I think it very much does that." At 318,000 square feet, the new union is about 1 and a half times the size of its predecessor which sat on the same spot at the corner of 12th Avenue and North High Street. But the configuration of the new building is vastly different. "Students were involved very heavily in the planning of the building throughout the whole eight years that it took to bring it to fruition and among the things they said that they like is to have places where they can gather informally rather than the great big, massive open space like we had in the previous union," Gerstner says. Gerstner says that's why there are a multitude of smaller more intimate lounges throughout the building. Some are located on opposite ends of the multi-story area known as the Great Hall "This is called the Great Hall," Gerstner says. "And it is three stories tall in the atrium style with chandeliers with the Block O's and balconies from the second and third floor looking down. Some of the features include the words to Carmen Ohio engraved in the limestone." Just off the Great Hall on the first floor is a 5,000 square-foot state-of-the art performance hall and next door, a smaller more intimate theater. Nearby there's an outdoor courtyard. "This is the south courtyard and it's a nice outdoor space on 12th Avenue directly across from the Law School," Gerstner says. "It has patio furniture and one of the most interesting features is a Block O fire pit that we can have a bon fire in there." Upstairs on the second floor is the union's largest room at 18,000 square feet. "This is the Archie M. Griffin Ballroom. It's one of the largest event spaces in Central Ohio. It can seat I believe up to 1800 people at tables for dinners or more for just chairs in a row. It can also be divided into three different spaces for smaller events. It has a stained wood floor that incorporates some of the wood from the ballroom in the old building. And one of the main features are three Block O chandeliers with a LED crystals that hang from it and can be lit in a number of different colors. It's really just a wonderful elegant space for large events," Gerstner says. The Union also has office space for the thousand student organizations on campus. There's a non-denominational meditation room for prayer and reflection in the building. And a round meeting room meant as a place to foster dialogue, says Gerstner, because everyone can see everyone else. There's a food court on the main floor with a variety of dining options, Gerstner says. The deli is called Dough-Hio. The coffee shop is Espress-O-H. Salads are the main offering of Across the Field and Sloopy's serves meals 22 hours a day in 1950s diner fashion. There's also Woody's Tavern that serves Ohio brewed alcoholic beverages to those of age and root beer to those who aren't "You can see that Woody's is a kind of a tavern atmosphere; kind of inspired by the television show Cheers. That's the feeling that students said they wanted to get from it so it combines the name of the old tavern in the old Woody's in the old Union. See it has one of the Woody Buckeye things, it has some other Woody memorabilia and some of his famous saying up there," Gerstner says. Only a small portion of the new Union is being paid for by the university, Gerstner says. Most of the financial burden will fall on students. This spring students will pay a student union fee of up to $27 per quarter. The rate increases to around $50 for autumn 2010 to spring 2011. The union fee will then rise to $63 per quarter thereafter for full-time students. There will also be small adjustments for inflation.

Ruth Gerstner says Ohio State was the first public university to have a student union. With the new building, she says, the university is continuing that tradition in grand style. "As magnificent as this building is - and it is truly magnificent - the more important thing is what it makes possible, the programs and the people. We think of it as the living room of campus," Gerstner says. "It's a real gathering place. It's really about bringing people together."