The ground floor of the Holmes Student Center has officially reopened for business and is drawing raves in its early reviews.
“To call this space remodeled is really a disservice,” said NIU President Dr. Lisa Freeman. “It has been completely reimagined, revamped and revitalized. We have transformed an outdated, uninviting space into a modern, vibrant hub of life on campus.”
The opening was pushed up to homecoming weekend so that the university could offer alumni a sneak peek. On Friday, the new multi-level patio on the south side of the building hosted a re-dedication of the university’s bust of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the evening, members of the Huskie Hall of Fame and their guests got a tour. But Monday was all about the students, who were quickly discovering the new space.
Most seemed to first be drawn to the Starbucks store, which serves the chain’s full menu of hot and cold coffee drinks and teas and a food menu including pastries, muffins and breakfast sandwiches.
Others gravitated to The Depot, a new grab-and-go convenience store near the drop off area for the Huskie Bus Lines. It features snacks, drinks, candy, ice cream and more. Starting next semester, The Depot also will have a deli counter offering made-to-order sandwiches.
Still other students explored the all new Huskie Books and Gear, featuring 6,000 square feet of NIU branded gear upstairs (as well as an area for technology sales and repairs), with even more space downstairs for books.
Aside from new eating and shopping options, students found plenty of places to relax or study in the 8,000 square feet of lounge space – twice as much as before. For those looking to gather groups together, the future Organizations and Student Involvement Suite (The OASIS) was already being pressed into use Monday. That space boasts 10,000 square feet of conference rooms, work tables and other collaborative workspaces, as well as offices for the Student Association, the Campus Activities Board and a branch location for the Dean of Students office.
Because of the expedited opening, new features will continue to be rolled out in the coming weeks. On Nov. 11 the dramatically re-worked Huskie Den will debut, offering an extensive menu of pub food in a 12,000 square foot sports bar setting. In March of 2020, a Qdoba restaurant will complete the menu of dining options, all of which will accept cash, credit, debit, Huskie Bucks and Dining Dollars.
The next few weeks will be used as a sort of “soft open” as the university gets those facilities online, meaning limited hours at dining facilities. For the remainder of the semester, the hours for Starbucks and the Depot will be 7:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 7:30 until 6 p.m. on Fridays; 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays; and noon until 8 p.m. on Sundays
“It will be very exciting to watch this area come to life and I am very grateful to the many people on our campus who have worked so hard to make this dream a reality, and to get the doors open as soon as possible,” said President Freeman. “This has been a wonderful collaboration between Student Affairs and Finance and Facilities, and they can be very proud of the final result.”