By: Kelly Vollmer
While some may never remember the old Reitz Union–what it felt like to lie on the grass steps overlooking the fountain or be bombarded with fliers between the pillars of the colonnade–there are those who have vivid recollections of the original building. The Reitz has come a long way since its birth in 1967, and this year represents the most change the Union has undergone. Here’s a look at the history of the Union and where it’s headed.
The original building that we know as the Reitz Union dates back to 1967. It was named after Dr. J. Wayne Reitz, the fifth president of the University of Florida. To give an approximate timeline to his place in the school’s history, the famous UF landmark Century Tower was finished at the beginning of Reitz’s presidency. And this isn’t the first time the Union has had a makeover. In 1975 the basement was finished into useable space for meeting rooms. This was the same year the original Orange and Brew was built, and an outdoor terrace was added in 1984. More meeting rooms were added years later in 1991 along with a mini mall and an atrium next to the Career Resource Center. A year later, the game room was expanded. The Reitz’s old cafeteria/snack bar area was made into the large food court in 1995. This food court was expanded and used to connect the facilities to the familiar official Gator bookstore and parking garage in 2003.
Currently the Reitz is still a functioning student union, but has big plans for the future, according to the Union’s website. Not only have areas been closed off for internal renovation, but as many may have noticed, there is massive construction going on as well. This construction started in the fall of 2013 and is estimated to be completed by fall of 2015. The project as a whole is reported to cost about $75 million for both renovation and expansion.
Renovations of existing features of the Reitz include restoring the exterior of the building and strengthening its structure, updating interior lighting, and installing more energy efficient window treatments like low energy glass and insulation around the window frames. Meanwhile, the cranes and bulldozers one can see peeking above the surrounding fences are adding 100,000 square feet of brand new space. The plans show a multilevel expansion made up of more offices and space for student government, organizations, clubs and meeting rooms, as well as more spacious lounges, cozy study spaces and dance rehearsal studios. And for those who celebrated the old union, builders even added room in the plans for an Orange and Brew.
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