The Auxiliary Services Corporation of SUNY Cortland (ASC) will celebrate the grand opening of its newly renovated dining facility in Neubig Hall at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 25.
The dining facility opened following an extensive $3.5 million renovation project over the summer.
While the Neubig dining hall has undergone many changes since opening in the late 1950s, this latest renovation represents the largest and most dramatic improvement the facility has ever seen.
“The project was undertaken based on feedback received from students beginning in 2004,” said ASC Executive Director Pierre Gagnon. “At the time, students expressed a strong desire for more dining choices and better value leading to the development of the all-you-care-to-eat (AYCTE) dining concept. In response to this student feedback, the Neubig dining facility became the home to the AYCTE experience at SUNY Cortland.”
The ASC management team soon realized the existing facility was not meeting the AYCTE needs of the student body.
“Our facility, in terms of layout and equipment, was preventing us from providing the level of service we wanted and our customers deserved,” noted William McNamara, the ASC director of dining services.
Recognizing the need for ASC to accumulate funds to help finance the Neubig renovation, the Student Government Association and the Student Dining Committee opted to reduce hours of operation in existing dining facilities as a cost saving measure.
“The level of student involvement and commitment to the project was instrumental in our success,” McNamara said.
Completed over two phases beginning in November 2008, the project was conceptualized by Porter and Porter Consulting, a company that specializes in designing dining facilities for colleges and universities. The consultants conducted focus groups with students, faculty, staff and administration in February 2006.
“Putting this project together required a real team effort,” said Dan Davis, ASC’s director of facilities, equipment and planning. “We had tremendous support from the College’s facilities staff and had some of the best players in the industry working on this.”
March Associates of Utica, N.Y., served as the project architects while HMC Incorporated of Columbia, Md., supplied all of the equipment and custom millwork. LP Ciminelli of Buffalo, N.Y., was the construction manager.
The dining room was completely remodeled in phase one. Upon entering the room, the eye is now drawn to a massive circular serving area with stations for a variety of food items. At the center sits a large Mongolian grill, on which chefs prepare dishes to order from ingredients hand selected by the customer. The dining room also sports a large salad bar featuring a daily assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Phase two of the renovation began in April and involved refurbishing the kitchen area and serving line. New state-of-the-art equipment was installed. The serving line now features grilled items, hot entrees, deli items and a cold stone-style ice cream station.
“We wanted to focus on freshly produced food made in front of the customer, so we eliminated the majority of the back of the house and are focusing on cook-to-order action stations,” noted McNamara. “This allows us to keep food fresh and customize individual orders while reducing waste.”
Students got their first taste of the new concept when Neubig first reopened in January 2009. The final project was unveiled when Neubig reopened in July.
“I feel as though the newly renovated Neubig is the heart of dining services on campus,” observed senior health science major Aaron Batchelder of Rouses Point, N.Y. “Not only does it offer a vast variety of foods, it also allows students to lead a healthy lifestyle if they so choose. The flat screen TVs, as well as the friendly staff and the comfortable seating, provide for an enjoyable and memorable atmosphere. In my opinion, Cortland ASC is leading the way in college dining services.”
Founded more than 50 years ago, ASC is a not-for-profit organization that provides dining services, vending, bookstore, student ID cards and other essential services to the campus community. ASC is governed by a board of directors made up of students, faculty, and College administrators. ASC employs more than 400 regular staff members and students and is the largest employer of students on the SUNY Cortland campus.