The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga opened a remodeled, $3.1 million dining hall this semester, a move creating about 75 jobs and expected to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the school annually.
After two years of construction, the remodeled Crossroads facility at the center of UTC's campus opened last week. The hall has a variety of colorful food stations, social seating and more solitary seating perfect for studying.
Food service provider Aramark paid for the remodeling and leases the space from the university to run the all-you-can-eat dining operation. Aramark sends the school a commission of about 9 percent on the $3 million to $4 million of expected annual revenue.
"It's a good deal for all of us," said Debbie Parker, UTC associate vice chancellor for business and finance.
UTC has partnered with Aramark for 11 years and extended its contract with the company for another decade.
Freshmen living on campus are required to join the meal plan. So far, 1,900 have signed up.
Overall student enrollment at UTC is up to a record 11,400 students this year, and UTC Chancellor Roger Brown hopes the dining hall will help that number climb higher.
"It's a tool to get students here more and it's a tool to attract more students to campus," he said.
Seventy-five part-time and full-time jobs opened with the renovation, about a third of them filled by students.
"It's just a lot better now," said Tommy Wright, a computer engineering major. "I just like the atmosphere."
As he ate a slice of pizza, a staple of the new cafeteria, he said the food is tasty, the selection wide and the location convenient.
Students pay $1,312.50 per semester, about $6 a day, to be on the meal plan. Visitors pay about $7 to enter the dining hall.