Dining expansion planned at UK’s Gatton Student Center

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

The school listed the following reasons for expansion:

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  • 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.”

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.”

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.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.