A building several years in the making, millions of dollars in fundraising and inescapable promotion, Miami’s newest red brick addition opened its doors as this year’s second semester began.
A veritable mass of students flooded the Armstrong Student Center (ASC) after its official opening Jan. 27. For many, it was the first time they saw the building’s high ceilings, open spaces and glass-walled offices meant to promote increased student interaction. It was also the first chance to sample the new dining hall options.
The mall-style food court was at the epicenter of the opening’s chaos. Both Miami students and Oxford residents formed lines lasting as long as an hour and 45 minutes.
Katya Michaels, an Armstrong dining employee, was working at the Haines’ Boulangerie the opening night.
“In the beginning, it was crazy,” she said. “It was ridiculous because everyone wanted to come.”
This sort of reaction, ASC board member Allison Gnaegy said, was to be expected. Similar to Maplestreet Station’s opening, students heard of something new and flock to it. Those in dining knew it was coming and did their best to prepare, Gnaegy said.
“They anticipated it,” she said. “A lot of people who work in the food court have been in the dining system for a while, so that kind of experience helps.”
Executive Manager for Armstrong Student Center Dining Services Kristina Rotundo agreed and said another reason for the lengthy wait time is the robust and customizable menus, something students had requested during ASC’s planning stages.
“Anytime you open a new restaurant there are always long lines initially,” Rotundo said, “which quickly go away as students learn the routine of points of service, menu options and understanding the customization options.”
Opening night however, the crowds did not die down.
“We served over 600 people at Boulangerie alone,” Michaels said.
Michaels was swamped that night, but she kept her cool.
“You either dealt with it or people would get really angry,” she said. “They got angry anyway.”
Sophomores Sarah Blocksidge and Cheyenne Woodall were among those disgruntled patrons waiting for Boulangerie’s Panera Bread-esque soups and paninis.
“We had to wait 30 minutes just to place the order,” Blocksidge said, “then had to wait 25 minutes to get our food.”
Woodall was equally peeved.
“They kept messing up orders,” she said. “They need to hire more people.”
Admittedly, the food court was and still is understaffed, evidenced by flyers advertising employment there.
“We are still understaffed,” Michaels said. “We are getting kind of desperate.”
Boulangerie’s early popularity was no fluke. The sandwiches are worth the long lines and occasional order mishaps, Woodall said.
“I love [Boulangerie],” she said. “They have sandwiches you can’t get anywhere else.”
Rotundo also reported positive reviews and high popularity.
“We served 29,648 customers as of close [Feb. 2], with outstanding feedback on the menus, pricing and service,” she said.
While the food may have received a lot of attention, both positive and negative, various other facets of the building have received excellent feedback, Gnaegy said.
“All of our opening events had really good attendance,” she said.
One event in particular that drew a well-dressed throng of people was the SnowBall.
“There were over 1,500 at the SnowBall,” Gnaegy said.
SnowBall, which took place in ASC’s Pavilion, was Miami’s answer to Prom, but far more decadent. With ice sculptures, a DJ, elaborate lighting and catered food, SnowBall aimed to kick off ASC’s event schedule in style.
The lavish party also had a large budget.
“Our budget was $36,000 but we only spent $30,000,” ASC board member and SnowBall planning committee member Cole Tyman said.
Tyman said the money was already in the ASC budget so it just made sense to put it toward something free that could benefit all students.
As time goes on, ASC will begin to feel less like a spectacle and more like a part of the campus; in fact, Gnaegy said, it already has.
“It was interesting to see how students automatically settled into the building,” she said. “It was like it had always been there. It seemed like a really easy transition in.”
Despite long food lines and an astronomically high SnowBall budget, ASC seems to be living up to the hype as students continue to file in and out of Miami’s newest building.