United Supermarkets, Texas Tech Celebrate Opening of New Dining Hall

Take one step inside Texas Tech University’s newest dining destination and one thing becomes immediately clear: it’s time to forget everything you remember about eating on campus.

Gone are the cafeteria-style serving lines. Gone are the staid interiors with rows of tables stretching out below banks of fluorescent lights.

Instead, imagine a two-story building with not one, but two food courts, contemporary furnishings, ample natural light and enough menu choices to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. And in place of the florescent lights, a cascading sculpture made up of hundreds of spheres in every color of the rainbow that wouldn’t feel out of place at the Googleplex.

Now you’re starting to get the picture.

Dubbed The Commons by United Supermarkets, Texas Tech University’s newest dining experience challenges preconceived notions of college dining halls with a space designed to bring the entire campus community together.

Texas Tech University System officials cut the ribbon on the new facility today, officially opening the campus’ first stand-alone dining hall.

“We are excited to offer state-of-the-art facilities like The Commons by United Supermarkets,” said Kent Hance, chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. “The need for more dining space reflects the impressive growth of our university, and I am confident we will be able to accommodate an increasing number of students in the coming years.”

Texas Tech regents approved naming the dining facility in recognition of a $3 million gift from United Supermarkets that created two student scholarship programs at Texas Tech University and provided funds for the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s new School of Nursing in Abilene, Texas.

The gift was the second-largest donation to the university by the Texas-based grocery store chain and counted toward the system’s $1 billion goal for Vision & Tradition: The Campaign for Texas Tech.

“We think higher education is so important,” said Robert Taylor, CEO of United Supermarkets. “We think Texas Tech is so important.”

“It’s really an honor to have our name on a building at this incredible institution,” added Gantt Bumstead, co-president of United Supermarkets and a fourth-generation member of the ownership family.

Everything from fresh pizza and bagels to sub sandwiches and Mongolian barbecue are on the menu at The Commons by United Supermarkets, which features an open concept kitchen on the first floor where diners can sit and watch food being prepared through a glass partition.

The 20,000-square-foot building features digital menu boards and seating for 350 people inside an energy-friendly building designed to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s criteria for LEED accreditation.

Suspended overhead, a sculpture entitled “Transitions” by Studio Art’s Desire of Garland, Texas, features more than 400 hand-blown glass spheres that appear to flow around and through a horizontal monolith.

According to a statement by the artists, the paths the spheres appear to take through the space represent the paths that students make through the university. The myriad of colors suggests the diversity of the student population, and many of the sphere’s have a spot of red color that signifies the impact Texas Tech has had on their life and the transitions students undergo during their university experience.

Located along 18th Street at Boston Avenue, The Commons by United Supermarkets is adjacent to, but not inside of the new Boston Avenue Residence Hall. The distinction is an important one for university administrators.

“It’s a major attraction because it’s not embedded inside a residence hall,” said Sam Bennett, Ed.D., assistant vice president and director of Hospitality Services at Texas Tech University. “It has a whole different identity.”

The unique feel of the building, and it’s close proximity to residence halls, classrooms and the Student Union Building have campus planners optimistic that it will be a popular destination for not only residents, but commuting students, faculty and staff.

“The many times I’ve walked through here, there are always people sitting and visiting, relaxing after a meal,” said Bennett. “This is a whole social space. It’s a place for the university community to come together.”

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